Sudan on Tuesday ordered the Libyan consulate in the western region of Darfur to vacate its offices and leave the country within 48 hours as diplomatic ties frayed following Tripoli’s expulsion of Sudanese diplomats from Libya’s southeastern town of Al-Kufrah earlier this week.
Tension between the two neighbors started on Sunday after Libyan authorities ordered the Sudanese consulate in Al-Kufrah, which remains under the control of the country’s beleaguered leader Muammar Al-Qaddafi as he fights against eastern rebels, to closes its office and leave the country.
The 12-member staff of the consulate left Libya within 48 hours as ordered by Al-Kufrah’s military ruler and arrived on Monday in Sudan’s northern town of Dongola.
On the same day, Sudan summoned the Libyan ambassador in Khartoum and requested clarifications on the expulsion of the consulate which has been used extensively as a point of evacuation for Sudanese citizens fleeing the unrest in Libya.
The spokesman of Sudan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Khalid Musa, told reporters in Khartoum on Tuesday that the Libyan consulate in Al-Fashir town, the provincial capital of North Darfur State, had been availed 48 hours to close its office and leave the country.
Musa went on to explain that the expulsion comes against the background of Libya’s expulsion of the Sudanese consulate in Al-Kufrah.
The spokesman said that his country’s decision would not cast diplomatic or political shadows on bilateral relations, and that it was made in accordance with the principle of “equivalent retaliation.”
According to Musa, the situation of the Sudanese embassy in the Libyan capital of Tripoli remains “stable”
Western embassies and UN offices in Tripoli were vandalized on Sunday after NATO warplanes bombed Al-Qaddafi’s family compound and reportedly killed the leader’s second-youngest son and three grandchildren.
British and Italian embassies were burned by angry mobs, prompting the former to expel the Libyan ambassador in London.
In a related development, Sudan also closed its shared borders with Libya and deployed large numbers of police and security forces as well as army units in the three states of its western region of Darfur.
Sudan’s interior minister Ibrahim Mahmud Hamid on Monday said that his country deployed forces along the border strip with Libya in order prevent smuggling of arms into the war-battered region of Darfur which borders Libya.
Darfur region has been steeped in a civil conflict which erupted in 2003 as rebels belonging mostly to African ethnicities took up arms against the Sudanese government. According to UN estimates, the Darfur conflict left as many as 300,000 dead, mainly due to starvation and diseases, as well as 2.7 million displaced.
Sudan closed its shared borders with Libya in early July 2010 after Libya provided sanctuary to Khalil Ibrahim, the leader of the Darfur rebel group justice and Equality Movement (JEM).
The borders were re-opened in February this year as Sudan attempted to evacuate thousands of its citizens fleeing the war in Libya.