Sudan talks resume after shootings mar breakthrough

Woman flash the victory sign outside the army headquarters in Khartoum on Tuesday. Ousted President Omar Al-Bashir had been charged over the killings of protesters during anti-regime rallies last month. (AFP)
Updated 14 May 2019
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Sudan talks resume after shootings mar breakthrough

  • Troops deployed after demonstrators block roads and burn tires in Al-Arbaa
  • Protest leaders changed their stand on Tuesday

KHARTOUM: Protest leaders resumed talks with Sudan’s military rulers Tuesday seeking to build on a political breakthrough overshadowed by deadly shootings.

The protest movement is demanding a civilian-led transition following 30 years of rule by President Omar Al-Bashir, but the generals who toppled him have been holding onto a leadership role.

An army major and five protesters were killed by unidentified gunmen at a long-running sit-in outside military headquarters in Khartoum late on Monday, just hours after the two sides announced they had reached agreement on the structure and powers of bodies that will oversee a transition.

The Alliance for Freedom and Change — the protest movement umbrella group negotiating with the ruling military council — said the shootings were an attempt to “disturb the breakthrough.”

The military council said it had “noticed some armed infiltrators among the protesters” at the sit-in, but did not identify them.

Protest leaders changed their stand on Tuesday. “It’s their (military) direct responsibility to guard and protect the citizens,” Mohamed Naji Al-Assam, a prominent figure in the movement, told reporters.

On the political track, protest leaders remained locked in talks with council representatives expected to focus on the composition of transitional bodies to run the country. The protest movement has demanded they have civilian majorities.

The military is ready to accept a mainly civilian Cabinet but has been demanding a military majority in a proposed sovereign council that will have the final say on matters of state.

Also on the agenda was the duration of the transition, with the military calling for a two-year timeframe, while the protesters want four years to allow time for preparatory reforms.

The latest round of talks which opened on Monday come after a break in negotiations that saw protest leaders threaten “escalatory measures” to secure their central demand of civilian rule. The issue has kept protesters camped outside army headquarters around the clock ever since Bashir’s overthrow.

The sit-in has become the focal point for the protest movement, overtaking the near-daily protests that had been held across Sudan while the veteran president remained in power.

But on Tuesday, following the previous night’s violence at the Khartoum sit-in, protesters held demonstrations in the Abbassiya and Al-Arbaa regions.

In Al-Arbaa, some demonstrators blocked roads with burning tires, a witness said, adding that troops deployed to the area.

Doctors, who along with other professionals have played a major part in organizing the protests, have set up field clinics at the sit-in where they treated the wounded from Monday’s shootings.

“So far all cases are stable, and those unstable have been transferred to hospital,” a duty doctor told AFP.


Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

Updated 21 May 2019
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Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

  • Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Lebanon insists that the area lies within its economic zone and refuses to give up a single part of it

BEIRUT: Lebanon has hinted that progress is being made in efforts to resolve its maritime border dispute with Israel following the return of a US mediator from talks with Israeli officials.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield returned to Lebanon following talks in Israel where he outlined Lebanese demands regarding the disputed area and the mechanism to reach a settlement.

The US mediator has signaled a new push to resolve the dispute after meetings with both Lebanese and Israeli officials.

Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon hopes to begin offshore oil and gas production in the offshore Block 9 as it grapples with an economic crisis.

A source close to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who met with Satterfield on Monday after his return to Lebanon, told Arab News that “there is progress in the efforts, but the discussion is not yet over.” He did not provide further details.

Sources close to the Lebanese presidency confirmed that Lebanon is counting on the US to help solve the demarcation dispute and would like to accelerate the process to allow exploration for oil and gas to begin in the disputed area.

Companies that will handle the exploration require stability in the area before they start working, the sources said.

Previous efforts by Satterfield to end the dispute failed in 2012 and again last year after Lebanon rejected a proposal by US diplomat Frederick Hoff that offered 65 percent of the disputed area to Lebanon and 35 percent to Israel. Lebanon insisted that the area lies within its economic zone and refused to give up a single part of it.

Satterfield has acknowledged Lebanon’s ownership of around 500 sq km of the disputed 850 sq km area.

Lebanon renewed its commitment to a mechanism for setting the negotiations in motion, including the formation of a tripartite committee with representatives of Lebanon, Israel and the UN, in addition to the participation of the US mediator. Beirut also repeated its refusal to negotiate directly with Israel.

Two months ago, Lebanon launched a marine environmental survey in blocks 4 and 9 in Lebanese waters to allow a consortium of French, Italian and Russian companies to begin oil and gas exploration in the area.