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.


Turkey’s Erdogan faces resurgent opposition in twin election test

Updated 7 min 55 sec ago
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Turkey’s Erdogan faces resurgent opposition in twin election test

  • Turks were voting Sunday in dual parliamentary and presidential polls seen as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s toughest election test, with the opposition revitalized and his popularity at risk from growing economic troubles
  • With all eyes on the transparency of the vote, polling stations opened at 0500 GMT and were due to close at 1400 GMT, with the first results expected late in the evening

ISTANBUL: Turks were voting Sunday in dual parliamentary and presidential polls seen as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s toughest election test, with the opposition revitalized and his popularity at risk from growing economic troubles.
Erdogan has overseen historic change in Turkey since his Islamic-rooted ruling party first came to power in 2002 after years of secular domination. But critics accuse the Turkish strongman, 64, of trampling on civil liberties and displaying autocratic behavior.
With all eyes on the transparency of the vote, polling stations opened at 0500 GMT and were due to close at 1400 GMT, with the first results expected late in the evening.
Over 56 million eligible voters are for the first time casting ballots simultaneously in the parliamentary and presidential elections, with Erdogan looking for a first round knockout and an overall majority for his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
But both these goals are in doubt in the face of an energetic campaign by his rival from the secular Republican People’s Party (CHP), Muharrem Ince, who has mobilized hundreds of thousands in mega rallies, and a strong opposition alliance in the legislative polls.
“I hope for the best for our nation,” said Ince as he cast his ballot in his native port town of Yalova south of Istanbul, vowing to spend the night at the headquarters of Turkey’s election authority in Ankara to ensure a fair count.
Erdogan remains the favorite to hold on to the presidency — even if he needs a second round on July 8 — but the outcome is likely to be much tighter than he expected when calling the snap polls one-and-a-half years ahead of schedule.
Analysts say the opposition’s performance is all the more troubling for the authorities given how the campaign has been slanted in favor of Erdogan, who has dominated media airtime.
“Even if the odds are on the incumbent’s side, the race is likely to be far tighter than many expected,” said Ilke Toygur, analyst at the Elcano Royal Institute and adjunct professor at University Carlos III in Madrid.
Anthony Skinner, head of MENA at Verisk Maplecroft, added: “Ince’s wit, audacity, ability to poke holes through Erdogan’s narrative and connect with Turks beyond the traditional base of his secularist CHP has flustered Erdogan and his team.”
The stakes in this election are particularly high as the new president will be the first to enjoy enhanced powers under a new constitution agreed in an April 2017 referendum strongly backed by Erdogan.
The president had for the last two years ruled under a state of emergency imposed in the wake of the 2016 failed coup, with tens of thousands arrested in an unprecedented crackdown which cranked up tensions with the West.
Erdogan, whose mastery of political rhetoric is acknowledged even by critics, has won a dozen elections but is now fighting against the backdrop of increasing economic woes.
Inflation has zoomed well into double digits — with popular concern over sharp rises in staples like potatoes and onions — while the Turkish lira has lost some 25 percent in value against the US dollar this year.
“At each election, I come with hope. But this year I have a lot more faith, but we’ll see,” said voter Hulya Ozdemiral as she cast her ballot in Istanbul
The votes of Turkey’s Kurdish minority will be especially crucial in the parliamentary poll. If the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) wins seats by polling over the 10 percent minimum threshold, the AKP will struggle to keep its overall majority.
But in a situation labelled as blatant unfairness by activists, the HDP’s presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtas has campaigned from a prison cell after his November 2016 arrest on charges of links to outlawed Kurdish militants.
After casting his ballot in his jail in the northwestern region of Edirne, Demirtas wrote on Twitter: “I wish that everyone uses their vote for the sake of the future and democracy of the country.”
The opposition has also alleged heavy bias in favor of Erdogan by state media, with news channel TRT Haber not showing a single second of Ince’s giant final Istanbul rally live.
Voting already closed last week for Turkish citizens resident abroad, with just under 1.5 million out of just over 3 million registered voters casting their ballot, a turnout of just under 49 percent.
Tens of thousands of Turkish citizens are responding to calls from the opposition to monitor the polls for a clean election and a delegation of observers from the OSCE will also be in place.
High security is in place across the country, with 38,480 police officers on duty in Istanbul alone. As is customary in Turkey on polling days, sales of alcohol in shops are also prohibited.