Sudan interim military council chief Al-Burhan meets with Egypt’s President El-Sisi

General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan’s visit to Egypt comes after Sudanese protest leaders announced a two-day strike. (AP)
Updated 26 May 2019

Sudan interim military council chief Al-Burhan meets with Egypt’s President El-Sisi

  • General’s first foreign trip since taking power after the April removal of president Omar Al-Bashir
  • El-Sisi backs Sudan’s military council

CAIRO: Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, head of Sudan’s ruling interim military council, arrived in Cairo on Saturday and met with President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in the capital’s Ittihadia Palace, the Egyptian presidency said.

Al-Burhan is on his first trip abroad since taking power following the ouster in April of Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir after months of protests.

El-Sisi and Burhan “agreed on the priority of supporting the free will of the Sudanese people and its choices,” Egyptian presidency spokesman Bassam Rady said.

El-Sisi also said Egypt was ready to “provide all means of support to the brothers in Sudan to overcome this stage in line with the aspirations of the Sudanese people, away from external interventions,” according to the spokesman. 

The visit comes a few hours after a visit paid by the vice chairman of the Sudanese Interim Military Council, Mohammad Hamdan Duklu, to Saudi Arabia to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Al-Burhan’s visit comes after Sudanese protest leaders announced a two-day strike from Tuesday, as talks with the military over installing civilian rule remain suspended.

At odds

The Alliance for Freedom and Change umbrella movement is at odds with the military council over whether the transitional body to rule Sudan should be headed by a military or civilian figure. The negotiations have been on hold since Monday.

Egypt, whose president currently chairs the African Union, has voiced support for Sudan’s military council.

Last month, El-Sisi hosted a summit where African nations urged the regional bloc to allow Khartoum “more time” for a handover to civilian rule.

Protest leaders were set to hold meetings with demonstrators at a sit-in outside the army headquarters in Khartoum on Saturday to discuss how to resolve the deadlock.

On Friday, they said their strike at “public and private institutions and companies,” accompanied by civil disobedience, was “an act of peaceful resistance with which we have been forced to proceed.”

Thousands of protesters remain at the sit-in to demand the departure of the generals, who seized power after ousting Al-Bashir.

Protest leaders have called for people to march on Sunday from residential areas of Khartoum toward the sit-in.

Several rounds of talks have so far failed to finalize the makeup of the new ruling body, although the two sides have agreed it will hold power for a transitional period of three years.

Western nations have called on the generals to hand power to a civilian administration, while the ruling army council has received support from regional powers.

Al-Burhan thanked Gulf states — including Saudi Arabia and the UAE — and Egypt for their support during the current tumultuous times.

(With Reuters)

In Bahrain, US to launch economic part of Mideast peace plan amid skepticism

Updated 43 min 36 sec ago

In Bahrain, US to launch economic part of Mideast peace plan amid skepticism

  • Two-day meeting billed as the first part of Washington’s long-delayed blueprint to revive the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process
  • But neither the Israeli nor Palestinian governments will attend the curtain-raising event

MANAMA/JERUSALEM: The first stage of President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan will be launched on Tuesday at a conference the White House touts as a bid to begin drumming up $50 billion in investment but which Palestinians deride as an “economy first” approach doomed to fail.
The two-day international meeting in Bahrain, led by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has been billed as the first part of Washington’s long-delayed broader political blueprint to revive the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which will be unveiled at a later date.
But neither the Israeli nor Palestinian governments will attend the curtain-raising event in the Bahraini capital, Manama.
There will be close scrutiny as to whether attendees such as Saudi Arabia and other wealthy Gulf Arab states show any interest in making actual donations to a US plan that has already elicited bitter criticism from Palestinians and many others in the Arab world.
Bahrain, a close American ally and home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, has been making preparations for weeks.
Although the conference is supposed to focus on economics, Gulf Arab states hope their presence will also show their solidarity with the Trump administration over its hard-line against Iran, a senior Gulf diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
Under the plan, donor nations and investors would contribute about $50 billion over 10 years, with $28 billion going to the Palestinian territories — the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip — as well as $7.5 billion to Jordan, $9 billion to Egypt and $6 billion for Lebanon.
Among 179 proposed infrastructure and business projects is a $5 billion transport corridor to connect the West Bank and Gaza.
“I laugh when they attack this as the ‘deal of the century,’” Kushner told Reuters, referring to the lofty nickname that Trump’s peace plan has assumed over the past two years.
“This is going to be the ‘opportunity of the century’ if they have the courage to pursue it.”
Kushner, a senior Trump adviser who like his father-in-law comes from the world of New York real estate, is presenting his plan in a pair of pamphlets filled with graphs and statistics that resemble an investment prospectus.
But pushing back against critics who accuse Kushner of trying to forge a strictly “economic peace,” he told Reuters last week: “A lot of past attempts have failed. Calm down ... and keep an open mind.”
Even so, expectations for success are low. The Trump team concedes that the economic plan — billed “Peace to Prosperity” — will be implemented only if a political solution to one of the world’s most intractable conflicts is reached.
Any such solution would have to settle long-standing issues such as the status of Jerusalem, mutually agreed borders, satisfying Israel’s security concerns and Palestinian demands for statehood, and the fate of Israel’s settlements and military presence in territory Palestinians want to build that state.
The Arab Peace Initiative offers Israel normal ties with the Arab world in exchange for a Palestinian state drawn along borders that predate Israel’s capture of territory in a 1967 war and a fair solution for Palestinian refugees. Israel has rejected some of the initiative’s main provisions.
Hanging over the entire initiative are persistent questions about whether the Trump team plans to abandon the “two-state solution,” a long-standing principle of Middle East peacemaking that involves creation of an independent Palestinian state.
But the Trump team has consistently refused to commit to it.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a close Trump ally, has his own domestic problems, facing an election, and possible corruption charges after a long-running police investigation. He denies any wrongdoing.
“We’ll hear the American proposition, hear it fairly and with openness,” Netanyahu said on Sunday. Although no Israeli government ministers will attend, an Israeli business delegation is expected.
Palestinian leaders have boycotted the workshop, and are refusing to engage with the White House — accusing it of pro-Israel bias after a series of recent Trump decisions. Kushner told Reuters that “some” Palestinian businessmen would be present.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, was scathing about its prospects of success.
“Money is important. The economy is important. But politics are more important. The political solution is more important,” he said.
Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls Gaza, has found itself in rare agreement with its arch-rival Abbas. “The Palestinian people only and no one else can represent the Palestinian cause,” Hamas official Mushir Al-Masri said.
Kushner insists, however, that the economic plan is intended to help draw Palestinians back to the negotiating table by showcasing the benefits a peace deal could bring.
Kushner said that even without the Israeli and Palestinian governments represented, the presence of Israeli business executives and journalists with their Arab counterparts would be significant at a time of rising tensions with Iran.
“People realize that the real threat to that region is Iran and their aggression, and Israel and a lot of the other Arab states have a lot more in common today than they did before,” he said.
David Makovsky, a Washington-based Middle East expert, agreed that although the principal focus of the event was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “Iran is higher on the chain of interest right now.”
However, Makovsky, whom the White House has invited as an observer, said of the Trump-Kushner plan: “No one believes you can solve this thing economically without addressing the political issues.”