After more than a year of being in the deep freeze, Sudanese-Egyptian relations are rapidly thawing. Sudanese Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi has shown Egyptian officials that they have nothing to fear from Sudan's relations with Libya's Col. Muammar Qaddafi, according to diplomats and Egyptian sources here.
Sudanese-Egyptian relations were ``put on a sound footing'' during Mr. Mahdi's talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak last month, a Sudanese source said. ``We are talking about the future now, instead of debating the hangups of the past,'' he said.
Egypt and Sudan have forged historical and cultural links over the ages. But, after the 1985 military coup which overthrew Sudanese dictator Jafaar Nimeiry, tensions arose in four areas:
Sudan's decision to reestablish relations with Libya and sign a military protocol with Colonel Qaddafi.
Egypt's decision to grant asylum to Nimeiry and refusal to extradite him on treason charges.
Sudan's freezing of an Egyptian-Sudanese ``integration charter.''
Poor personal relations between the two countries' leaders.
``Egyptian officials had a hard time coming to grips with the new Sudanese nationalism that grew out of the coup,'' a Western diplomat says. ``The new proud Sudanese government wanted to be an equal partner, not a little brother. There had been a warming trend in the last six months, but Mr. Mahdi's visit was the culmination, a big step forward.''
Strategically, the improved Sudanese-Egyptian relations are seen as a blow to Colonel Qaddafi's ambitions to increase his influence in Africa, diplomats said.
Sudanese-Libyan relations were initially restored on the condition that Qaddafi terminate his support for the rebel movement in southern Sudan. Diplomats say the 1985 military protocol led to only minimum Libyan assistance to Sudan and not, as was feared, to massive Libyan interference in Sudan's affairs.
During his four-day visit to Cairo, Mahdi signed a ``brotherhood charter'' as the basis for a ``special relationship'' with Egypt. The charter, which proclaims that the two nations ``share a special, predestined relationship embodied by the immortal River Nile, common struggle, and strategic interests,'' is a framework for political, economic, and cultural relations.