Sudan FM: Tension over Renaissance Dam is fabricated by the media

Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour. (Reuters)
Updated 15 December 2017
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Sudan FM: Tension over Renaissance Dam is fabricated by the media

LONDON: Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour said that recent tension over the Grand Renaissance Dam was made up by the media, stressing Khartoum’s respect for the Nile River Agreement.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Ghandour said: “Our brothers in Egypt, especially those who manage the negotiations on the Renaissance Dam, know that Sudan has stressed its respect for the Nile Waters Agreement.”
“Egyptian media is trying to point to Sudan as if it was not a party to this equation, which also includes Ethiopia and Egypt. We always reiterate that Sudan is neither an intermediary nor a biased party, but an inherent part in this trilateral equation,” he added.
“For us, the most important principle is to preserve our interests without compromising the interests of our fellow brothers,” the Sudanese foreign minister stressed.
As for the disputed Halayeb triangle, Ghandour emphasized that the area belonged to Sudanese land, based on historic facts, but noted that this issue would not be the “cause of any fighting or rivalry that leads to a schism in the relations between Sudan and Egypt.”
He suggested however, that the case would be resolved through direct dialogue or by resorting to the International Court of Justice.
“What we want is for our brothers in Egypt to agree to hold negotiations as they did with our brothers in Saudi Arabia over Tiran and Sanafir, or to resort to the International Court of Justice as they did with Israel over Taba,” he said.
Moving to the lifting of US economic sanctions against Sudan, Ghandour noted that following the complete lifting of sanctions in October, a new phase of dialogue started with the US over the removal of the country from the US list of states sponsors of terrorism.
“This began with the visit of US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan and a delegation in November. We have agreed to draw up a plan, and the two sides are now exchanging views,” he said.
In this regard, the Sudanese minister underlined the important role assumed by Saudi Arabia in lifting US economic sanctions.
“The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman assumed a major role in lifting the sanctions. This is well known and highly valued by all Sudanese people. The UAE, represented by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and Prince Abdullah bin Zayed — the foreign minister who was directly coordinating with me — also played an important role in this matter,” Ghandour stated, naming other contributors to this achievement, including Arab and Gulf countries represented by the Arab League, as well as Britain, Norway, the European Union and the African Union.
Asked about the American conditions for removing the country from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, the Foreign Minister said: “The United States is preoccupied with two issues in Sudan: religious freedoms and human rights, as well as the fight against terrorism in the region.”
“The United States publishes an annual report on religious freedoms and human rights which covers all countries in the world. Some US reservations on the status of human rights and religious freedoms in Sudan were mentioned in this report.”
He noted that some considered the visit of a senior American delegation to Khartoum a few weeks following the issuance of the report as an indication of the nature of the conditions set by the US.
“This is not true,” Ghandour stressed, saying: “When the US Deputy Secretary of State raised the issue of religious freedom and human rights at the meeting, our response pointed to the fact that Sudan’s record of religious freedom is the best in the world, and that we are seeking, without any foreign pressure, to reform our record if there are problems. The same applies to human rights, as we are committed to the Sudanese Constitution, which clearly refers to religious freedoms and human rights and to the international and regional agreements we have signed.”
On whether Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir would run for a new presidential term, Ghandour said that the president has expressed more than once that he did not want to renew his tenure.
“But there is a very clear popular desire; there are many parties other than the National Conference calling for the re-nomination of Al-Bashir, such as the Democratic Union… and the parties of the government of national unity and other popular, youth and students movements,” he said.


Iraq’s Shiite rivals agree on prime minister

Updated 18 September 2018
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Iraq’s Shiite rivals agree on prime minister

  • Veteran Shiite politician Adel Abdul Mahdi informally nominated to replace Haider Al-Abadi
  • Decision reached after extensive negotiations between pro and anti-Iran factions

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s rival Shiite blocs in parliament have agreed on who they want as the next prime minister after making progress in negotiations towards forming a government, negotiators told Arab News.

The two factions, one pro Iran and the other anti, have agreed to work together as a coalition, negotiators told Arab News on Tuesday.

The veteran Shiite politician and former vice president Adel Abdul Mahdi was informally nominated to replace Haider Al-Abadi, negotiators said. 

He will be assigned on Sept. 25 to form a government if his nomination is approved by the Kurdish blocs. 

Before the appointment of prime minister, the president has to be selected. There is no indication that the Kurds, who get the post according to the Iraq’s power sharing agreement, have decided on who to nominate. 

Iraq’s parliament has been split between the Reform alliance and Al-Binna’a alliance after elections in May.

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READ MORE: Iraq parliament elects Sunni lawmaker Al-Halbousi as speaker, breaking deadlock

Rival Iraqi factions make coalition deal and end Al-Abadi’s prime minister hopes

Rival Shiite factions trade blame for who drove the burning of buildings in Basra

Iran accused of hijacking Basra protests after a week of violence that shook Iraq

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Reform is controlled by Muqtada Al-Sadr, one of the country’s most influential Shiite clerics who opposes Iranian influence in the country.

Iran-backed Al-Binna’a is led by Hadi Al-Amiri, the head of Badr organization, the most prominent Shiite armed faction.

At the first parliamentary session earlier this month, both coalitions claimed they have the most number of seats which would give them the right to form a government.

Within hours, violent demonstrations erupted in Basra, Iraq’s main oil hub, killing 15 demonstrators and injuring scores of people. The Iranian consulate was set on fire along with dozens of government and party buildings.

The violence on the street reflected the stand-off in parliament and threatened to erupt into fighting between the armed wings associated with the different Shiite groups.

The agreement between the two blocs was the only way to end the violence and prevent a slide into intra-Shiite  fighting, senior leaders involved in the talks said.

Several meetings between Al-Sadr and Al-Amiri were held in Al-Sadr’s residency in the holy city of Najaf last week to defuse the crisis.

Both parties’ desire for a truce seemed clear on Saturday at a parliament session to elect the speaker and his deputies. The two blocks showed their influence without colliding with each other. Al-Binna’a presented its candidate for the speaker post and stepped down after winning to make way for the Reform bloc to present its candidate for the post of first deputy of the speaker without competition.

The negotiations teams continued their meetings over the following days to agree on the details of the government program and select the nominee for the prime minister among the dozens of candidates presented by the forces belonging to the two alliances.

The first results of talks between the two blocs came out on Tuesday when Al-Amiri withdrew from the race “to open doors for more talks,” and avoid  conflict between the alliances.

“We will not talk on behalf of Al-Binna’a or the Reform. We both will agree on a candidate. Compatibility is our only choice,” Al-Amiri, said at a press conference in Baghdad.

“Today, Iraq needs to be saved, as we saved it from Daesh, so we have only two options, either we choose to impose the wills and twist each others arms or choose the understanding between us.”

 Iraq has been a battleground for regional and international powers, especially Iran and the United States, since 2003 US-led invasion. 

Brett McGurk, the US envoy to Iraq and Syria, and General Qassim Soleimani, commander of Iran's Al Quds Force, are deeply involved in the negotiations. 

The candidate for prime minister should also enjoy the blessing of the religious powers in Najaf, represented by Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, the Shiite spiritual leader and most revered figure in Iraq, negotiators said.

“The situation is complicated as there are three different sides that enjoy the right to use veto. They are Iran, US and Najaf,” a key negotiator of Al-Sadr’s negotiation team told Arab News.

“One ‘no’ is enough to exclude any candidate. Not only that, Sadr and Amiri also have their conditions and we still have difficulty reconciling all of them.”

The marathon negotiations, which run every day until late at night, finally reached a shortlist for prime minister.

The three names reached were Adel Abdul Mahdi, a former leader of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, Falih Al-Fayadh, the former national security adviser, and Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, the head of the intelligence service.

Adel Abdul Mahdi was the chosen one, three negotiators from different sides told Arab News.

“We have agreed to nominate Adel Abdul Mahdi as he is the only one who was approved by the three sides (Iran, the US and Najaf),” an Al-Sadr negotiator told Arab News.