Sudan rivals agree to new talks as protest strike ends: mediator

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Mahmoud Drir, an envoy of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, has been mediating between the two sides since Ahmed visited Khartoum last week. (AP)
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Sudanese vendors sell vegetables in the central market of Khartoum on June 10, 2019, as most of the shops and businesses remained shut. (AFP)
Updated 13 June 2019

Sudan rivals agree to new talks as protest strike ends: mediator

  • Sudan has been led by a military council since it toppled autocratic president Omar Al-Bashir on April 11
  • A top US diplomat planned a mission to press the generals to halt the crackdown on protesters demanding civilian rule

KHARTOUM: Protest leaders have agreed to end a campaign of civil disobedience launched after a deadly crackdown on demonstrators and to resume talks with Sudan’s ruling generals, an Ethiopian mediator said Tuesday.

The apparent breakthrough, which the military rulers had yet to confirm, came as a top US diplomat prepared to embark on a mission to press the generals to halt the crackdown on protesters demanding civilian rule.

Sudan has been led by a military council since it toppled autocratic president Omar Al-Bashir on April 11 after months of nationwide protests against his iron-fisted rule of three decades.

Following Bashir’s removal, protesters camped outside military headquarters in Khartoum for weeks to demand civilian rule, before security and paramilitary forces dispersed them in a June 3 crackdown that killed dozens.

The protest movement launched a campaign of civil disobedience on Sunday, and most businesses stayed closed and residents hunkered indoors for the next three days.

It had threatened to pile even more pressure on the generals by releasing a list of members for a new ruling body — the key point of dispute between the two sides.

But they agreed to end the campaign and return to talks, said an envoy of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

“The Alliance for Freedom and Change agreed to end the civil disobedience (campaign) from today,” Mahmoud Drir, who has been mediating between the two sides since Ahmed visited Khartoum last week.

“Both sides have also agreed to resume talks soon,” he told reporters.

The protest movement itself said in a statement that it was calling on people “to resume work from Wednesday.”

The UN Security Council called on all sides “to continue working together toward a consensual solution to the current crisis” and voiced support for African-led diplomatic efforts.

The council also called for an immediate halt to attacks against civilians and stressed the importance of upholding human rights — a week after Russia and China blocked a similar draft statement on the crisis.

In Khartoum, the protest strike saw most shops and businesses remain closed with some companies extending to the end of the week the Eid Al-Fitr holidays marking the end of Ramadan.

The paramilitary Rapid Support Forces accused of having played the lead role in last week’s crackdown patrolled districts in their trademark pickup trucks fitted with heavy machine guns.

“We are now getting used to living with guns as we are seeing so many of these men walking into restaurants with their weapons,” one resident said as a group of RSF members entered an eatery.


Will European arms ban impact Turkey’s Syria operation?

Updated 19 min 13 sec ago

Will European arms ban impact Turkey’s Syria operation?

  • Several European countries imposing weapons embargoes on Turkey

ANKARA: With an increasing number of European countries imposing weapons embargoes on Turkey over its ongoing operation in northeastern Syria, Ankara’s existing inventory of weapons and military capabilities are under the spotlight.

More punitive measures on a wider scale are expected during a summit of EU leaders in Brussels on Oct. 17.

It could further strain already deteriorating relations between Ankara and the bloc.

However, a EU-wide arms embargo would require an unanimous decision by all the leaders.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned last week of a possible refugee flow if Turkey “opened the doors” for 3.6 million Syrian refugees to go to Europe — putting into question the clauses of the 2016 migration deal between Ankara and Brussels.

“The impact of EU member states’ arms sanctions on Turkey depends on the level of Turkey’s stockpiles,” Caglar Kurc, a researcher on defense and armed forces, told Arab News.

Kurc thinks Turkey has foreseen the possible arms sanctions and stockpiled enough spare parts to maintain the military during the operation.

“As long as Turkey can maintain its military, sanctions would not have any effect on the operation. Therefore, Turkey will not change its decisions,” he said.

So far, Germany, France, Finland, the Netherlands and Norway have announced they have stopped weapons shipments to fellow NATO member Turkey, condemning the offensive.

“Against the backdrop of the Turkish military offensive in northeastern Syria, the federal government will not issue new permits for all armaments that could be used by Turkey in Syria,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

Following Germany’s move, the French government announced: “France has decided to suspend all export projects of armaments to Turkey that could be deployed as part of the offensive in Syria. This decision takes effect immediately.”

While not referring to any arms embargo, the UK urged Turkey to end the operation and enter into dialogue.

Turkey received one-third of Germany’s arms exports of €771 million ($850.8 million) in 2018. 

According to Kurc, if sanctions extend beyond weapons that could be used in Syria, there could be a negative impact on the overall defense industry.

“However, in such a case, Turkey would shift to alternative suppliers: Russia and China would be more likely candidates,” he said.

According to Sinan Ulgen, the chairman of the Istanbul-based EDAM think tank and a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, the arms embargo would not have a long-term impact essentially because most of the sanctions are caveated and limited to materials that can be used by Turkey in its cross-border operation.

“So the arms embargo does not cover all aspects of the arms trade between Turkey and the EU. These measures look essentially like they are intended to demonstrate to their own critical publics that their governments are doing something about what they see as a negative aspect of Turkey’s behavior,” he told Arab News.

Turkey, however, insists that the Syria operation, dubbed “Operation Peace Spring,” is undeterred by any bans or embargoes.

“No matter what anyone does, no matter if it’s an arms embargo or anything else, it just strengthens us,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told German radio station Deutsche Welle.