Tensions in the Red Sea region have been brewing for months, but came to the fore when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Sudan last month.
The visit, hailed as historic, was the first by a Turkish head of state since 1956, when Sudan gained independence.
Sudan’s official state news agency said that the two countries agreed to set up a strategic planning group to discuss international affairs, and that they intended to conclude a military deal.
Among more than a dozen agreements signed by Erdogan and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was a deal to temporarily hand over a Red Sea island to Turkey.
Ankara and Khartoum said Turkey would rebuild the ruined, sparsely populated Ottoman island to increase tourism and create a transit point for pilgrims crossing the Red Sea to Islam’s holiest city of Mecca.
Egyptian and Saudi media have harshly criticised the agreement and alleged Turkey would build a military base on Suakin island.
Turkey and Egypt, which is an ally of Saudi Arabia, have had frosty relations for some time. Ankara strongly condemned Egypt’s military coup in 2013, which overthrew the first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Saudi newspaper al-Okaz ran a headline that read: “Khartoum hands over Suakin to Ankara … Sudan in Turkish hands.”
“Turkey’s greed on the African continent seems to have no limits,” the report noted, referring to Turkey’s recent move to set up its biggest overseas military base in Somalia.
The Sudanese embassy in Saudi Arabia responded by saying that “Suakin belongs to Sudan, no one else”, and promising that the deal with Ankara would not harm the security of Arab countries.
The ripples, however, were immediately felt across the African continent.
In what may have been a response to fears that Turkey was expanding its influence in the region, Egypt sent hundreds of its troops to a UAE base in Eritrea, on the border with Sudan.
Khartoum responded by recalling its ambassador to Cairo, hours after the head of the Sudanese Border Technical Committee, Abdullah al-Sadiq, accused Egypt of trying to “drag Sudan into a direct [military] confrontation”.