Sudan talks enter day two as key issue still unresolved

Sudanese protesters chant slogans demanding civilian rule on June 29, 2019 at the end of a rally in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman in which the chief of the military council delivered a speech. (AFP)
Updated 04 July 2019

Sudan talks enter day two as key issue still unresolved

  • Talks finally resumed Wednesday after intense mediation by Ethiopian and African Union envoys, who have put forward a draft proposal to break the deadlock
  • Tensions further surged between the generals and protest leaders after a deadly pre-dawn raid on a longstanding protest camp in Khartoum on June 3 killed dozens of demonstrators and wounded hundreds

KHARTOUM: Talks between Sudan’s ruling generals and protest leaders, held after weeks of standoff following a deadly crackdown on protesters, enter a second day Thursday with the key issue of forming a new governing body still unresolved.
Sudan has been rocked by a political crisis since the army ousted longtime ruler Omar Al-Bashir in April on the back of widespread protests, with the ruling generals resisting demonstrators’ demands to hand power to a civilian administration.
The generals had previously agreed over a broad civilian structure, but talks between the two sides collapsed in May following a disagreement over who should lead an overall new governing body — a civilian or a soldier.
Tensions further surged between the generals and protest leaders after a deadly pre-dawn raid on a longstanding protest camp in Khartoum on June 3 killed dozens of demonstrators and wounded hundreds.
Talks finally resumed Wednesday after intense mediation by Ethiopian and African Union envoys, who have put forward a draft proposal to break the deadlock.
The two sides were due to meet again on Thursday evening.
“The discussion will be about who heads the sovereign council,” a prominent protest leader who is part of the talks, Ahmed Al-Rabie, told AFP, referring to the governing body.
He said the ruling military council that took power after Bashir’s ouster insists the head of the new governing body be from the army.
“We believe that symbolically the head of the state must be a civilian,” Rabie said.
For weeks this issue has rocked Sudan, extending the political crisis triggered since the fall of Bashir.
The joint Ethiopian and African Union blueprint calls for a civilian-majority ruling body.
On Wednesday, the first day of the latest round of talks, the two sides did not discuss the crucial issue of the governing body.
“The parties conducted responsible negotiations and agreed on some issues,” African Union mediator Mohamed El Hacen Lebatt told reporters overnight after long hours of talks held at a luxury hotel in the capital.
“There’s a decision taken to release all political detainees.”
A group of 235 fighters from a faction of a Darfur rebel group that is part of the protest movement were released later on Thursday.
They were freed from Al-Huda prison in Omdurman, the twin city of Khartoum across the Nile river, an AFP correspondent reported, adding that many relatives had arrived to receive the fighters.
Protest leaders have exerted pressure on the generals since the June 3 raid on the mass sit-in outside army headquarters.
The raid was carried out by men in military fatigues.
The ruling military council insists it did not order the violent dispersal of the sit-in.
At least 136 people have been killed across the country since the raid, including more than 100 on June 3, according to doctors close to the umbrella protest movement, the Alliance for Freedom and Change.
The health ministry says 78 people have been killed nationwide over the same period.
On Sunday, protest leaders managed to mobilize tens of thousands of supporters in the first mass protest against the generals since the raid.
The mass rally had been seen as a test for the protest leaders’ ability to mobilize crowds after the generals imposed a widespread Internet blackout and deployed security forces in the capital’s key squares and districts, its twin city Omdurman and other towns and villages.
Protest leaders have further upped the pressure on the generals by calling for a similar mass protest on July 13, to be followed by a nationwide civil disobedience campaign a day later.
The campaign, if observed, would be the second such agitation since the June 3 raid.
The first, held between June 9 and 11, paralyzed the country, hitting an already dilapidated economy hard.


Pope backs Iraqi call for its sovereignty to be respected

Updated 25 January 2020

Pope backs Iraqi call for its sovereignty to be respected

  • President Barham Salih held private talks for about 30 minutes with the pope and then met the Vatican’s two top diplomats
  • The recent tensions in Iraq could make it impossible for Francis to visit the country, which he has said he would like to do this year

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis met Iraq’s president on Saturday and the two agreed that the country’s sovereignty must be respected, following attacks on Iraqi territory this month by the United States and Iran.
President Barham Salih held private talks for about 30 minutes with the pope and then met the Vatican’s two top diplomats, Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, its foreign minister.
The talks “focused on the challenges the country currently faces and on the importance of promoting stability and the reconstruction process, encouraging the path of dialogue and the search for suitable solutions in favor of citizens and with respect for national sovereignty,” a Vatican statement said.
On Jan. 8, Iranian forces fired missiles at two military bases in Iraq housing US troops in retaliation for Washington’s killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike a Baghdad airport on Jan. 3.
The Iraqi parliament has passed a resolution ordering the 5,000 US troops stationed in Iraq to leave the country.
Soon after the Iranian attack, Francis urged the United States and Iran to avoid escalation and pursue “dialogue and self-restraint” to avert a wider conflict in the Middle East.
The pope discussed the Middle East with US Vice President Mike Pence on Friday.
The recent tensions in Iraq could make it impossible for Francis to visit the country, which he has said he would like to do this year.
The Vatican said the pope and Salih also discussed “the importance of preserving the historical presence of Christians in the country.”
The Christian presence in Iraq and some other countries in the Middle East has been depleted by wars and conflicts.
Iraq’s several hundred thousand Christians suffered particular hardships when Daesh controlled large parts of the country, but have recovered.