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Sudan conflict threatens neighboring countries. We visit the Egypt-Sudan border

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The fighting in Sudan is starting to involve neighboring countries. Egypt, for example, is now hosting tens of thousands of Sudanese fleeing the conflict. In just three weeks, more than 50,000 Sudanese have crossed into Egypt. NPR's Aya Batrawy is in Egypt, near the border with Sudan, to bring us the latest on the regional impact of this conflict. Aya, thanks so much for joining us. Good morning.

AYA BATRAWY, BYLINE: Good morning, Michel.

MARTIN: So I understand that you're now in Aswan, which is an ancient city on the Nile. That's the first stop for many Sudanese crossing over into Egypt. Can you just tell us what the view is from there?

BATRAWY: Yeah. So for many here, it's hard to even draw a line between Sudan and Egypt because of the cultural and ancestral links that transgress the 750-mile border between the two. It's common to hear Egyptians and Sudanese refer to themselves as children of the Nile who drink from the same source. I met Ibrahim Mudasir, a man who's half Sudanese and half Egyptian. He's in Aswan now, assisting Sudanese who come here with things like getting a local SIM card or money for a train ticket to Cairo. And here's how he described the ties that bind Egypt and Sudan.

IBRAHIM MUDASIR: (Non-English language spoken).

BATRAWY: Mudasir says when things happen in Sudan, it touches Egypt because of Sudan's proximity to Egypt's strategic red lines. And he points out that there are shared Nubian tribal links that straddle both countries. He says pointedly, it's blood that flows between the two countries, not just the Nile River. So Egypt doesn't want an exodus of people from Sudan permanently settling here, though, and they don't want to turn areas of Egypt into encampments for people fleeing the conflict. So it's not offering shelter to Sudanese and has not really given broad space to international aid agencies to step in and do that either just yet. And Egypt does see this as a direct threat to its stability. Newspapers here describe Egypt as now being surrounded by a ring of fire with Libya and Sudan and Gaza and Israel all around its borders.

MARTIN: So with so many countries in the region, like Egypt, affected by the fighting in Sudan, tell us about the international efforts that are being brought to bear to end this conflict. Are there any?

BATRAWY: Yeah. We've seen a flurry of diplomacy in just the last few days. There have been U.S.-Saudi-backed mediation talks in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, between the warring sides. Keep in mind, Saudi Arabia did use Sudanese fighters in its war in Yemen. So it has relationships with the warring generals in Sudan. The meetings in Jeddah are to discuss humanitarian corridors. So we're still a long way from agreeing on a cease-fire.

But this is important because most of Sudan's hospitals are either shuttered or in dire need of basic medical aid. And Saudi Arabia has pledged $100 million in humanitarian aid to Sudan. But to get that on the ground, as well as other Gulf aid, you got to have some security measures in place. But we've also seen the national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia. A delegation from the House Intelligence Committee met Egypt's president and the head of Egypt's intelligence agency on Sunday. And today, Egypt's foreign minister is in South Sudan and will head to Chad. All three countries border Sudan.

MARTIN: But as you've been reporting, I mean, despite these diplomatic efforts, millions of Sudanese remained trapped. Are there any signs that the fighting is letting up?

BATRAWY: This is a fight for power between Sudan's military and the country's powerful paramilitary force, and they've shown no real indications they're willing to back down from this fight. And the threat of a proxy war that draws in other countries is real. Both sides are backed by different countries. So most Sudanese I've spoken to have expressed anger and sorrow that they have been caught in the middle.

MARTIN: That's NPR's Aya Batrawy in Aswan. Aya, thank you so much.

BATRAWY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
Aya Batrawy
Aya Batrawy is an NPR International Correspondent. She leads NPR's Gulf bureau in Dubai.