Sudan denies ‘military cooperation’ with Turkey over port investment

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, right, gives a press conference with his Sudanese counterpart Ibrahim Al-Ghandour after their meeting together and with their respective intelligence chiefs at Tahrir Palace in the Egyptian capital Cairo on Thursday. (AFP)
Updated 09 February 2018
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Sudan denies ‘military cooperation’ with Turkey over port investment

CAIRO: Sudan on Thursday denied any military cooperation with Turkey over a controversial port after a meeting with Egypt to ease months of diplomatic tensions.
“There is no intention to establish a Turkish base, not in Suakin, nor any place in Sudan,” Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Al-Ghandour said in Cairo.
The meeting was called after the latest flare-up in decades of difficult relations, and as part of an agreement struck by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and the Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir at the African Union summit in Ethiopia last month.
On Jan. 4, Sudan recalled its ambassador to Cairo days after Egyptian media warned that Sudan was “playing with fire” by strengthening its ties with Qatar and Turkey.
Ankara signed a cooperation deal in December with Khartoum and agreed to carry out a series of reconstruction projects in Sudan worth $650 million.
These included rebuilding the port of Suakin on Sudan’s Red Sea coast. Turkey said this would increase tourism to Sudan and establish a transit point for pilgrims traveling to Makkah.
Egypt feared that Turkey planned to use Suakin as a military base to gain a foothold in the region.
At a press conference with his Egyptian counterpart on Thursday, Al-Ghandour stressed the area has 400 buildings and “it is a pure Sudanese property for Sudanese people only.”
“The Turkish president offered to renovate old houses and offered to be used as a tourist island for the common benefit between Sudan and Egypt,” he said.
During the meeting between the foreign ministers and heads of the intelligence services from the two countries, Egypt and Sudan agreed to stop their war of words, and strengthen relations.
Egyptian Foreign Ministry said the discussions were “very successful.”
Khartoum and Cairo have long disagreed over ideological and territorial issues, including the status of an 8,000 sq. mile piece of land known as the Hala’ib Triangle.
They also disagree over a multibillion-dollar dam Ethiopia is building on its share of the Nile. Sudan supports the project, but Egypt fears it will have a severe effect on water supplies downstream.
The statement said the countries would raise the level of bilateral cooperation to the highest level and set up a framework to open up coordination regarding the Ethiopian dam.
The two sides also agreed to improve cooperation in a number of areas including energy and infrastructure projects and communication between the foreign ministers.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri said the two countries would raise security and political coordination to the highest level.
Al-Ghandour said the meeting was “a historic point in the relations between the two countries” and that the Sudanese ambassador to Cairo would return very soon.
He said relations between the two countries is a historical one of blood and brotherhood.


UN chief proposes options to protect Palestinians

Updated 39 min ago
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UN chief proposes options to protect Palestinians

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday presented four options aimed at boosting the protection of Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territories, from sending UN rights monitors and unarmed observers to deploying a military or police force under UN mandate.
The proposals were contained in a report requested by the General Assembly in response to a surge of violence in Gaza, where 171 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since late March.
The UN chief stressed that for each of the options, cooperation by Israel and the Palestinians would be necessary. It remained unlikely however that Israel would agree to the proposals.
In the 14-page report, Guterres proposed:
• Providing a “more robust UN presence on the ground” with rights monitors and political officers to report on the situation.
• Pouring in more UN humanitarian and development aid to “ensure the well-being of the population.”
• Creating a civilian observer mission that would be present in sensitive areas such as checkpoints and near Israeli settlements, with a mandate to report on protection issues.
• Deploying an armed military or police force, under a UN mandate, to provide physical protection to Palestinian civilians.
A UN mandate for a protection force would require a decision from the Security Council, where the United States could use its veto power to block a measure opposed by Israel.
A small European-staffed observer mission was deployed in the West Bank city of Hebron in 1994, but Israel has since rejected calls for an international presence in flashpoint areas.
In the report, Guterres said the United Nations was already undertaking many protection initiatives but that “these measures fall short” of the concerns raised in a General Assembly resolution adopted in June.
In that measure, the 193-nation assembly condemned Israel for Palestinian deaths in Gaza and tasked Guterres with the drafting of proposals for “an international protection mechanism” for the Palestinians.
Guterres argued that a political solution to the conflict was needed to address the safety of Palestinians but that “until such a solution is achieved, member-states may further explore all practical and feasible measures that will significantly improve the protection of the Palestinian civilian population.”
“Such measures would also improve the security of Israeli civilians.”
On Friday, Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinians taking part in protests along the Gaza border and 270 other Palestinians were wounded.
Israel has defended its use of live ammunition in Gaza by invoking its right to self-defense. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper in July.
“The targeting of civilians, particularly children, is unacceptable,” Guterres said in the report, adding that “those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law must be held accountable.”
UN efforts to ensure the well-being of Palestinians must strengthened, he added, singling out the funding crisis at the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA as being “of particular concern.”
UNRWA is facing a major budget shortfall after President Donald Trump’s administration decided to withhold its contribution to the agency.
The report released to all UN member-states comes amid a vacuum in Middle East peace efforts as European and other big powers await a peace plan from the Trump administration that has been under discussion for months.
UN diplomats have recently begun questioning whether the US peace plan will ever materialize.
The United Nations has warned that a new war could explode in Gaza.
Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, including its Hamas rulers, have fought three wars since 2008.