Egypt, Sudan plan to double trade, Morsi says

Mohamed Morsi speaks at the al-Nour mosque Khartoum on April 5, 2013.  By Ashraf Shazly (AFP)

Mohamed Morsi speaks at the al-Nour mosque Khartoum on April 5, 2013. By Ashraf Shazly (AFP)

KHARTOUM (AFP) – Egypt and Sudan plan to double their trade and investment, stepping up cooperation in sectors ranging from manufacturing to tourism, President Mohamed Morsi said Friday, ending his first visit to Khartoum.

“We agree to benefit from all the resources we have to reach full integration, through joint agricultural projects for food security, and to double the amount of trade and investment,” Morsi told reporters at a press conference with his fellow Islamist, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

Morsi arrived on Thursday evening in Sudan, which Egypt jointly ruled with Britain until 1956, and left after about 24 hours.

Bashir’s office called the visit “historic” but observers questioned why Morsi had not come sooner.

Morsi, a former Muslim Brotherhood leader, was elected in June after a popular uprising toppled long-time strongman Hosni Mubarak in 2011 as part of the region’s Arab Spring revolts.

Mubarak’s regime had strained relations with Sudan for years.

The deposed leader blamed Sudan for a 1995 assassination attempt against him in Ethiopia, when the veteran Islamist Hassan al-Turabi was a key figure in the Khartoum government.

Cooperation between the Islamist regimes in Cairo and Khartoum poses no threat and yet they both face “enemies”, Morsi said earlier Friday.

“We in Egypt and Sudan are integrated, and you will find enemies for this integration,” Morsi stressed before thousands of people, including Bashir, at Al-Noor mosque in Khartoum North.

It was not clear to which “enemies” he was referring.

“This cooperation is not against anyone,” Morsi said, adding that the two countries “don’t seek a war or aggression” against others.

Banners outside the mosque proclaimed, “Sudan and Egypt are brothers”, and shouts of welcome greeted the visiting leader.

On Wednesday, Egypt summoned the United Arab Emirates charge d’affaires to urge a quick conclusion to an investigation into Egyptians detained in the Gulf state on suspicion of links to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Relations between Abu Dhabi and Cairo had already been strained since Morsi’s election

Both Egypt and Sudan also face internal turmoil.

Brotherhood offices in Egypt have been attacked in protests against the president in recent weeks. Critics accuse both the movement and Morsi of mirroring tactics used by Mubarak against the opposition.

Bashir, who seized power in a 1989 coup, was elected in 2010 but foreign observers said the vote failed to reach international standards.

Opposition parties and rebels have been seeking an end to his regime.

Turabi was among a group of political figures who met Morsi on Friday at a luxury hotel.

He later told AFP the “revolutionary” Egyptian regime should foster tighter ties between its people and those of Sudan.

“The people should be linked with the people. It’s more lasting than a government with a government, especially one which is revolutionary and one which is a dictatorship,” he said, using the latter term to describe Bashir’s administration.

He said both opposition and government parties were given about 10 minutes each for brief talks with Morsi.

Turabi was a key figure behind the coup that brought Bashir’s regime to power but later broke with him and formed the Popular Congress opposition party.

Turabi now says Bashir’s government should not be considered as Islamic.