CAIRO - Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has met with Sudanese leaders in Khartoum, vowing to solidify ties between the two countries, which at one time were united.
President Morsi received applause from a crowd of worshippers at a mosque in Khartoum, where he addressed them following Friday prayers.
It was Morsi's first visit on a tour of countries with which Egypt shares a land border. He told his audience that he intended to reopen that long-closed land border in several places to strengthen what he termed "unity" between the two countries.
Morsi said that Egypt and Sudan are one nation, share one Nile River, one sense of purpose, and one leadership with the same goals. He insisted that Egypt wants what he calls the Nile Axis of world development between the Arabs, Islam and Africa to be a source of rebirth, but that this cooperation and unity is not aimed against anyone.
Morsi said Egypt and Sudan have "agreed to reopen road links between them to the east of the Nile" and that ultimately that would lead to reopening other roads between the two countries "to join the manpower and production capacities of both nations."
The Egyptian president told businessmen earlier, in a joint meeting with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, that he wanted to "increase investments between the two countries."
Veteran Egyptian editor and publisher Hisham Kassem says that Morsi's previous trips abroad have not been overly successful and that it was not clear exactly what he intended to accomplish by visiting Sudan:
"It's a zero-sum foreign policy. None of his international visits have amounted to anything. He goes to China claiming that it's going to balance out American influence in the region. Do you think China will risk meddling in the area of influence of the United States? And now we see him going to Sudan. He's talking about increasing trade and investments. What are we going to increase trade in, cayenne pepper and camels and goats?," Kassem said.
Kassem added that one major issue that concerns both countries is the longstanding demand from Nile basin states for Egypt to reduce its share of water from the river. But, he says, there are people "far better qualified" than Morsi in the Egyptian military and intelligence community to negotiate the issue.
Both Egypt and Sudan were once united, under the Egyptian monarchy. Khartoum
gained formal independence in 1956. The two countries have had rocky relations since an attempt to assassinate former President Hosni Mubarak in Addis Ababa in 1995. The Egyptian press accused Sudan of being responsible for the attempt.