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

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.

Iran scrambles for European lifeline

A special meeting of the Joint Commission of parties to the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) on Iran’s nuclear deal is in progress in Vienna. (Reuters)
Updated 26 May 2018

Iran scrambles for European lifeline

  • ‘Noose is tightening on Tehran’ in face of US sanctions, expert tells Arab News
  • US President Donald Trump has long criticized the deal with Iran saying it failed to do enough to curtail Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

JEDDAH: Signatories of the Iran nuclear deal met in Vienna on Friday in a bid to save the agreement after Washington’s dramatic withdrawal earlier this month.

For the first time since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) came into force in 2015, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany gathered — at Iran’s request — without the US, which pulled out of the agreement on May 8 and said it would reinstate sanctions.

US President Donald Trump has long criticized the deal with Iran — concluded under his predecessor Barack Obama — saying it failed to do enough to curtail Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

Speaking to AFP after Friday’s meeting, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Abbas Araghchi, said: “We are negotiating... to see if they can provide us with a package that can give Iran the benefits of sanctions lifting.” 

“Practical solutions” were required to address Iran’s concerns over its oil exports, banking flows and foreign investment in the country, he said.

Russian delegate Mikhail Ulyanov struck an upbeat note after the meeting, saying: “We have all the chances to succeed, provided we have the political will.

Harvard scholar and Iranian affairs expert Majid Rafizadeh told Arab News that it would be against Europe’s interests to stay in the deal.

“The European nations should be cognizant of the fact that the beneficiary of the nuclear deal is Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and its militias,” he said. “Staying in the deal or submitting to the Iranian regime’s new demands will inflict damage on the EU’s geopolitical and national security interest in the short and long term.”

The EU could not thwart or skirt US primary and secondary sanctions against Iran, he said. Rafizadeh said Iran’s hard-liners were attempting to obtain concessions from the EU by threatening to pull out of the JCPOA.

“But from the perspective of the Iranian leaders, giving concessions means weakness. And although Iran is playing tough, it needs the deal to support Bashar Assad and its proxies.

“The European governments should be aware that the Iranian leaders — moderates and hard-liners — are playing a shrewd tactical game.

“The regime is playing a classic ‘good cop, bad cop’ game. The moderates set the tone on the international stage through their shrewd diplomatic skills and softer tone, while the hard-liners take a tougher stance to help the moderates win more concessions,” said Rafizadeh.

Oubai Shahbandar, a Syrian-American analyst and fellow at the New America Foundation’s International Security Program, said the noose was tightening on Tehran.

“European firms simply cannot afford the penalties imposed by US secondary sanctions on Iran. The Iranian plan to press Europe to compensate for President Trump’s policy decision to restart a crippling sanctions regime is unlikely to prove fruitful,” he told Arab News.

Recent revelations of a covert Iranian facility designed to develop long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles that can be fitted with nuclear warheads will only complicate matters for Tehran as it scrambles for a European lifeline, Shahbandar said.

“The collapse of the JCPOA is likely to prove a major shock to the Iranian economy in the long run,” he said.