Sudan taking control of land on border with Ethiopia -minister
KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan has taken control of most of the land that Ethiopians are accused of invading near the border between the two countries, the Sudanese minister of information said on Saturday.
Tensions in the border region have increased since the conflict erupted in the northern Tigray region of Ethiopia in early November and the arrival of more than 50,000 mainly Tigrayan refugees in eastern Sudan.
The disputes centered on agricultural land in al-Fashqa, which lies within Sudan's international borders but has long been settled by Ethiopian farmers.
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Armed clashes between the Sudanese and Ethiopian forces have occurred in recent weeks, with both sides accusing the other of instigating the violence. The two countries held talks on the issue in Khartoum this week.
"We believe in a dialogue to solve any problem," Sudan's information minister Faisal Salih told Reuters. "But our army will do its duty to retake all of our country. Currently, our army has retaken between 60% and 70% of the Sudanese land."
The Sudanese armed forces had acted defensively and the clashes had subsided in the past two days, Salih said.
"Reports from the Sudanese secret service confirmed that the organization, training and arming of the armed forces attacked were not militias but regular armed forces," he added.
Ahead of this week's talks, Ethiopian Foreign Minister Ato Demeke Mekonnen said the Sudanese military launched attacks on November 9.
"Ethiopian farmers' agricultural products are being ransacked, their warehouses are being destroyed and they are also being prevented from harvesting their own farms. A number of civilians have been murdered and wounded," he said.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed blamed "parties with hidden motives for hostility and distrust between peoples" for the violence in a statement released on Thursday.
According to Sudanese officials, the border was demarcated in the early years of the 20th century and negotiations have been limited to talks about placing additional markings on the land at 2 km instead of 10 km.
(Reporting by Ali Mirghani, Nafisa Eltahir and Nadine Awadalla; writing by Nafisa Eltahir and Aidan Lewis; editing by Leslie Adler)
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