CAIRO (AP) — Egypt and Sudan have launched joint military exercises, the Egyptian army announced Saturday, in the latest sign of deepening security ties between the Nile Valley neighbors.
The exercises run by Egyptian and Sudanese commando and air forces were the first joint combat training held since the ouster of Sudanese autocrat Omar al-Bashir last year.
The joint military initiative came less than a month after President Donald Trump announced that Washington would remove Sudan from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, paving the way for the African country to be integrated into the international community. That move combined with Sudan’s decision to start normalizing ties with Israel, a key U.S. ally in the region.
Egypt’s military said in a statement that the joint combat exercises, dubbed “Nile’s Eagles-1," are being held in Sudan and would last until Nov. 26.
The exercises include planning and running combat activities, as well as commando groups conducting search and rescue missions, according to the statement.
The joint initiative comes as regional tensions in Nile Valley are increasing.
Deadly fighting between Ethiopian federal forces and the regional government in the Tigray area that erupted on Nov. 4 has reportedly killed hundreds on both sides in the clashes, and raised international concern about a possible civil war at the heart of the Horn of Africa.
Meanwhile, Egypt has expressed increasing alarm over Ethiopia's mega-dam project upstream, fearing it could reduce its share of the Nile waters. The Blue Nile, the river’s main tributary, accounts for 80% of the river’s volume, and originates in Ethiopia’s highlands before merging with the White Nile at the Sudanese capital of Khartoum.
The Nile provides nearly all of Egypt’s freshwater and much of its electricity supply.
Ethiopia says its dam would have no negative impact on Egypt or Sudan, and argues it is vital for its development.
Sudan is on a fragile path to democracy after a popular uprising led the military to overthrow al-Bashir in April 2019, after nearly three decades of rule.
During al-Bashir's era, relations between Sudan and Egypt suffered from sporadic tensions, including repeated failures to reach a deal over Ethiopia's massive dam being built on the Blue Nile, and the revival of a longstanding dispute over a border territory, the Halayeb Triangle, held by Egypt and claimed by Sudan.
President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s government has intensified its efforts to rebuild ties with its southern neighbor since al-Bashir's ouster, including supporting the new Sudanese government's efforts to be delisted from the U.S. state-sponsors of terrorism list.