Sudan’s warring parties trade blame over truce breach

Update Sudanese army soldiers rest next to a building in Khartoum on May 25, 2023. (AFP)
1 / 2
Sudanese army soldiers rest next to a building in Khartoum on May 25, 2023. (AFP)
Update A man walks past a burnt out bank branch in southern Khartoum on May 24, 2023. (AFP)
2 / 2
A man walks past a burnt out bank branch in southern Khartoum on May 24, 2023. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 25 May 2023

Sudan’s warring parties trade blame over truce breach

Sudan’s warring parties trade blame over truce breach
  • Cease-fire deal comes after five weeks of intensive warfare in Khartoum
  • Latest in series of truces that have all been systematically violated

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s warring sides accused each other on Thursday of being behind breaches of the latest cease-fire that was negotiated by Saudi Arabia and the US, now in its third day.
The one-week truce was violated only minutes after it came into effect on Monday night, with residents of the capital Khartoum reporting air strikes and artillery fire shaking the city.
There have since been further breaches of the cease-fire agreement, which is meant to allow for much-needed humanitarian aid to reach war-ravaged parts of the north African country.
It is the latest in a series of truces that have all been systematically violated.
Since April 15, Sudan’s capital and other parts of the country have been gripped by brutal urban warfare between the regular army, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
But though the current cease-fire has been violated, it has allowed for a lull in fighting that has seen frightened residents cautiously venture out of their homes, some for the first time in weeks.
Many have gone out for supplies of food and water or to seek much-needed medical attention after nearly six weeks of fighting that has sharply depleted vital supplies and pushed the health care system to the brink of collapse.
In a statement issued late Wednesday, the RSF, which is led by Mohammed Hamdan Daglo, sought to place the blame for cease-fire breaches on the army led by Sudan’s de facto leader Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan.
The army “launched a series of unwarranted attacks today,” the RSF said, adding that “our forces decisively repelled these assaults.”
“Our forces successfully shot down a SAF MiG jet fighter,” it said, reiterating however that it remained “committed to the humanitarian truce.”
The army responded Thursday morning, saying it had “countered an attack on armored vehicles by the militias of the Rapid Support Forces in a clear violation of the truce.”
The US, who brokered the cease-fire alongside Saudi Arabia, warned the warring parties against any further violations.
The State Department said that observers had detected the use of artillery, drones and military aircraft as well as fighting both in the capital Khartoum and in the western region of Darfur.
“We have continued to see violations of the cease-fire,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters.
“We retain our sanctions authority and if appropriate we will not hesitate to use that authority.”
The UN envoy for the Horn of Africa, Hanna Tetteh, said the continued fighting was “unacceptable and it must stop.”
Desperately needed aid has yet to reach the capital despite the fighting easing.
The conflict has so far killed more than 1,800 people, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project.
More than a million Sudanese people have been displaced, in addition to 300,000 who have fled to neighboring countries, according to the United Nations.
Conditions have been particularly alarming in Darfur, already ravaged by a conflict that erupted in 2003 and saw then president Omar Al-Bashir unleash the feared Janjaweed militia to crush a rebellion among ethnic minority groups.
The RSF traces its origins to the Janjaweed.
The UN’s refugee coordinator in Sudan, Toby Harward, said the town of Zalengei in Central Darfur state “has been under siege by armed militias for the last days.”
Numerous facilities “have been attacked and looted, civilians are unable to seek medical care as health care facilities are targeted, and gangs on motorcycles intimidate government workers and restrict civilian movements,” he added.
Representatives of the warring Sudanese generals have since early May been involved in negotiations in the Saudi city of Jeddah.
But analysts have repeatedly warned that the two generals are likely prepared for a prolonged conflict.
Sudan expert Alex de Waal described the conflict as being the result of a “calamitous failure of diplomacy.”
Burhan and Daglo had in 2021 staged a coup that unseated a civilian transitional government but later fell out in a bitter power struggle.

Erdogan has eye on local, global challenges with new Cabinet

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stands with the new cabinet members during the inauguration ceremony in Ankara.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stands with the new cabinet members during the inauguration ceremony in Ankara.
Updated 9 sec ago

Erdogan has eye on local, global challenges with new Cabinet

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stands with the new cabinet members during the inauguration ceremony in Ankara.
  • President’s picks focus on economy, foreign policy, says expert
  • ‘Friendly to West, less antagonistic toward region’s nations’

ANKARA: Turkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan unveiled his new Cabinet on Saturday night during his inauguration ceremony, with the appointments providing some indication on the direction the new government is heading on the economy and foreign policy.

The fact that the new vice-president, Cevdet Yilmaz, has a background in economic governance may be an indication that the economy will be a priority as Erdogan embarks on his third decade at the helm of the nation.

Mehmet Simsek, an advocate of investor-friendly and orthodox economic policies, and viewed positively by the financial markets, was named as treasury and finance minister.

Simsek, a former economy chief and deputy prime minister between 2009 and 2018, will be responsible for restoring the confidence of the markets post-elections.

In his previous post, he urged for tighter monetary policy but was replaced by Berat Albayrak, Erdogan’s son-in-law.

Whether his presence in the cabinet will see a departure from the current unorthodox economic policies, with its low interest rates, remains to be seen.  But his appointment is already an important signal to the markets that there will be some changes.

Rather than an abrupt shift in economic policy, gradual steps are expected to be taken in an environment where the lira is sliding to record lows against the dollar.

In his post-election speech, Erdogan said: “We are designing an economy focused on investment and employment, with a finance management team that has a global reputation.”

Turkiye’s economy expanded 4 percent in the first quarter of the year, remaining just above expectations.

Soner Cagaptay, senior fellow at The Washington Institute, told Arab News: “If he is also given some independence to adjust ultra-low interest rates, the Turkish economy can make a comeback. But I expect first a devaluation of the lira, which will make Turkiye very cheap for the tourists and affordable for the exports.”

“If Simsek is given enough flexibility, the markets will believe that he has the mandate to (do) what he has to do for restoring the Turkish economy,” said Cagaptay.

With reserves diminishing, some changes in economic governance in the short term are inevitable.

But how substantial and sustainable these changes will be in a centralized decision-making structure remain uncertain and depends on the new roadmap announced.

Experts believe that if Erdogan insists on keeping interest rates low rather than taking austerity measures ahead of local elections that are 10 months away, Simsek’s appointment would not result in much change to economic policy.

According to Wolfango Piccoli, co-president of London-based Teneo Intelligence, Simsek’s return would result in a partial re-adjustment of Turkiye’s current economic policy, while a dramatic U-turn embracing an outright conventional monetary policy approach remains unlikely.

“It is also unclear for how long Erdogan may tolerate a more pragmatic stance on the economic front, given the priority he assigns to the March 2024 local elections,” said Piccoli.

In the meantime, former intelligence chief Hakan Fidan joined the cabinet as the new foreign minister. Fidan is known for initiating rapprochement with multiple countries, especially Egypt and those in the Gulf.

“He is highly respected in Washington and he is seen as a reliable counterpart,” said Cagaptay.

“He had been also handling key international portfolios, especially Syria and Russia policies. His appointment is really significant. He is now in the driver’s seat.”

Cagaptay expects the new cabinet to be friendlier toward Western nations and less antagonistic with regional countries.

In late April, Fidan attended a meeting with his Russian, Iranian and Syrian counterparts in Moscow as part of a rapprochement process with the Bashar Assad regime.

Last year, the handshake between Erdogan and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi on the sidelines of the World Cup in Qatar, was also believed to be the result of meetings between the two sides’ intelligence organizations and foreign ministries.

According to Cagaptay, Erdogan wants top-notch experts on economic and foreign policy, so that he can focus on domestic areas which require almost daily macro-management, including social issues and drafting a new charter.

“That he has saved parliamentary seats while forming his cabinet tells us he wants to quickly get to a referendum-triggering legislative majority,” he added.

Meanwhile, although Turkiye has already started the process of normalizing ties with Syria and the Assad regime through several high-level meetings under Russian mediation, the Turkish military presence in northern Syria is not expected to end soon.

But new moves for facilitating the safe return of Syrian refugees to their homeland might be taken to fulfil the pledges made by Erdogan during his reelection campaign.

The counterterrorism campaigns in northern Iraq and Syria are also set to continue in the light of the composition of the new cabinet.

Dalia Ziada, director of the Cairo-based MEEM Center for Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean Studies, believes that Fidan is the right man for the job at this particular time with Turkiye rising as a key regional player.

“He holds all the important cards and knows by practice the behind-the-scenes issues in Turkiye’s foreign policy,” she told Arab News.

“Fidan enjoys a deep understanding of the situation in the hotspots of the Middle East, ranging from Libya to Sudan and Syria, and he is the only Turkish official to continue to be part of the four-way meetings in Moscow that brought together senior officials from Turkiye, Syria, Russia and Iran in the past few months,” Ziada said.

According to Ziada, tangible progress on Turkiye’s foreign policy in Syria and the mediating role of Turkiye in the Russia-Ukraine conflict can be expected in the short run with Fidan’s active role in the foreign policy apparatus.

As Fidan has been the “behind-the-curtains” architect of the rapprochement in the past two years to fix broken ties with Egypt and Arab Gulf countries, Ziada thinks that his appointment may accelerate the reconciliation process between Turkiye and the North African country.

“This will consequently lead to mitigating the civil conflicts in Libya, facilitating the political solution process, and may eventually bring Libya to elections sooner than we think,” she said.

El-Sisi and Erdogan have agreed on “the immediate start of upgrading diplomatic relations, exchanging ambassadors,” Egypt’s presidency said in a statement last Monday.

Ziada added that Fidan’s background could enhance Turkiye’s relationship with the Arab Gulf countries.

“I won’t be surprised to see Fidan being involved in talks between Arab Gulf countries and Iran in the near future. In reverse, this will be reflected positively on Turkiye by increasing Gulf countries’ investments and thus enhancing the struggling Turkish economy,” she said.

“Fidan is expected to be Turkiye’s winning horse on the chessboards of the Middle East, the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Black Sea.”

Yasar Guler, the country’s chief of general staff, was appointed as the defense minister in the renewed cabinet.

Although not announced yet, presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin is expected to be named as the new intelligence chief.

The governor of the central bank has not been announced yet but the name of Hafize Gaye Erkan has come up.

Erkan holds a doctorate from Princeton University, worked for many financial institutions in the US, including Goldman Sachs as a financial services executive, and is the former president of First Republic Bank.

Over the past four years, Turkiye has seen four governors at the helm of the central bank.

Israel prepares funerals for soldiers killed near Egyptian border

Israel prepares funerals for soldiers killed near Egyptian border
Updated 04 June 2023

Israel prepares funerals for soldiers killed near Egyptian border

Israel prepares funerals for soldiers killed near Egyptian border

JERUSALEM: Israel said Sunday it would investigate the shooting deaths of three soldiers at its border with Egypt, as it prepared to hold funerals for the slain trio.
On Saturday, three Israeli soldiers were killed by an “Egyptian policeman” who had entered the country and was shot dead in a rare cross-border incident, the army said.
Israel had sent Egypt a “clear message,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday at the opening of a cabinet meeting.
“We expect that the joint investigation will be exhaustive and thorough. This is part of the important security cooperation between us, which has benefitted both countries over the years,” he said.
Egypt’s army said a member of its security forces had crossed the border “chasing drug traffickers” before he was killed in an “exchange of fire which left three dead on the Israeli side.”
Two of the Israeli soldiers’ bodies were found at the border Saturday morning at a guard post close to the Harif military base, near the town of Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev desert, the army said.
They were identified as Lia Ben Nun, 19, and Ori Izhak Iluz, 20.
The discovery of their bodies triggered a manhunt during which the third soldier, 20-year-old Ohad Dahan, and the Egyptian identified by the army as a policeman, were killed.
A fourth Israeli soldier, a non-commissioned officer, was lightly wounded and evacuated to hospital, the military added.
The three soldiers will be buried Sunday afternoon in their hometowns, the army said.
On Sunday, Israeli media raised questions over the shootings, particularly how the assailant managed to cross the several-meters-high barrier running along the border.
Netanyahu on Saturday promised a “full investigation” into the deaths and senior government figures stressed the importance of cooperation with Egypt.
The army is conducting “a thorough investigation... in collaboration with the Egyptian armed forces,” Netanyahu’s chief of staff Herzl Halevi said.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant highlighted “the importance of the ties between the two countries” following a telephone call with his Egyptian counterpart Mohamed Zaki.
Zaki meanwhile underlined “the joint coordination to take the necessary measures to avoid the repetition of incidents of this kind in the future,” according to a spokesman for the Egyptian army.
Egypt was the first Arab country to make peace with Israel following the Camp David accords of 1978, though there remains widespread popular opposition toward normalization in Egypt.
The border between the two countries is generally calm but is the scene of regular smuggling attempts.
In recent years, there have been exchanges of fire between smugglers and Israeli soldiers stationed along the border.
In 2014, two Israeli soldiers on patrol were wounded by unidentified men who fired an anti-tank weapon from the Sinai during an attempt to smuggle drugs.

Syrian top diplomat discusses aid on visit to key ally Iraq

Syrian top diplomat discusses aid on visit to key ally Iraq
Updated 04 June 2023

Syrian top diplomat discusses aid on visit to key ally Iraq

Syrian top diplomat discusses aid on visit to key ally Iraq

BAGHDAD: Syria’s foreign minister on Sunday discussed humanitarian aid and combating the illegal drugs trade with key ally Iraq during a visit to Baghdad as Damascus emerges from years of diplomatic isolation.
The visit by Faisal Mekdad comes weeks after the Arab League agreed to end Syria’s suspension from the 22-member bloc, bringing President Bashar Assad’s regime back into the regional fold after years of civil war.
Iraq remained an ally of Damascus throughout the wider Arab boycott, never severing relations and maintaining close cooperation during Syria’s civil war, particularly over the fight against the Daesh group.
Baghdad was “one of the initiators” of Syria’s return to the Arab League, Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein said in a joint press conference with Mekdad.
The two also discussed the issue of Syrian refugees who fled the country after war erupted, many of whom now live in Iraq as well as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkiye.
“We received about 250,000 refugees,” said Hussein, who added that the majority of them live in camps in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region.
He said the next step would be getting humanitarian aid into Syria, which has been devastated by the war and by a February 6 earthquake that also hit Turkiye and killed tens of thousands in both countries.
The quake triggered a flurry of aid efforts and diplomatic moves that help spur Syria’s reintegration back into the wider Arab region.
Mekdad on Sunday thanked Iraq for its “solidarity” after the quake, also hailing the “progression” of bilateral relations.
“We will continue to cooperate to combat terrorism and eliminate the danger posed by drugs,” he added in a reference to the illegal trade in the stimulant captagon.
Mekdad was also expected to meet Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani and President Abdul Latif Rashid, Iraqi foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed Al-Sahaf told the state news agency.

The Arab League voted on May 7 to readmit Syria after its suspension in 2011 over Assad’s brutal repression of pro-democracy protests that later devolved into an all-out war.
At the time, Iraq had abstained from the vote that resulted in Damascus’ suspension.
The two countries share a 600-kilometer porous desert border that has continued to see militant activity even years after the defeat of Daesh.
The militant group took over large swathes of both countries in 2014, declaring its “caliphate” before it was defeated in 2017 in Iraq and in 2019 in Syria.
Drug trafficking has also proliferated in past years, with the trade of the amphetamine-like drug captagon exploding in the region, much of it across the Syria-Iraq border.
Iraqi guards in March seized over three million captagon pills at the border with Syria.
In addition to security coordination, Baghdad and Damascus continue to coordinate on other key issues including water as both countries face dangerous shortages.
Dam-building in neighboring countries and climate change impacts have dramatically reduced water flows in both countries, disrupting agriculture and threatening livelihoods amid persistent economic challenges.


Oil tanker breaks down in Egypt's Suez Canal, briefly disrupting traffic in the global waterway

Oil tanker breaks down in Egypt's Suez Canal, briefly disrupting traffic in the global waterway
Updated 04 June 2023

Oil tanker breaks down in Egypt's Suez Canal, briefly disrupting traffic in the global waterway

Oil tanker breaks down in Egypt's Suez Canal, briefly disrupting traffic in the global waterway
  • Tanker broke down in a single-lane part of the waterway, disrupting the transit of eight other vessels behind it.

CAIRO: n oil tanker that suffered engine failure in Egypt's Suez Canal, briefly disrupting traffic in the vital waterway, has been towed away, the canal's authority said on Sunday.

A tanker transporting curd oil broke down in a single-lane part of Egypt’s Suez Canal on Sunday, briefly disrupting traffic in the global waterway.
The Malta-flagged Seavigour suffered a mechanical malfunction at the 12 kilometers mark of the canal, said George Safwat, a spokesperson for Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority. The tanker was part of the north convoy, which transits the canal from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, he said.
In a phone interview with a local television station, Adm. Ossama Rabei, head of the Suez Canal Authority, said the tanker broke down in a single-lane part of the waterway, disrupting the transit of eight other vessels behind it.
Hours later, Rabei said in a statement that navigation at the canal had returned to normal after three tugboats towed the tanker to a double-lane part at the 17 kilometers mark. He said that the Seavigour ‘s crew was working on repairing the malfunction but did not share further details.
The Seavigour was built in 2016, and is 274 meters long and 48.63 meters wide, according to MarineTraffic, a vessel tracking service provider
Sunday’s incident was the latest case of a vessel reported stuck in the vital waterway. A flurry of ships ran aground or broke down in the Suez Canal over the past few years.
On May 25, a Hong Kong-flagged ship briefly blocked the canal. On March 5, a Liberia-flagged ship ran aground in the two-lane part of the waterway. Both vessels were refloated hours later.
In March 2021, the Panama-flagged Ever Given, a colossal container ship, crashed into a bank on a single-lane stretch of the canal, blocking the waterway for six days and disrupting global trade.
The canal, which opened in 1869, provides a crucial link for oil, natural gas and cargo. About 10 percent of world trade flows through the canal, a major source of foreign currency for the Egyptian government.
According to the Suez Canal Authority, last year, 23,851 vessels passed through the waterway, compared to 20,649 vessels in 2021. The revenue from the canal in 2022 reached $8 billion, the highest in its history.

50 Daesh terrorists, 168 family members repatriated from Syria to Iraq

50 Daesh terrorists, 168 family members repatriated from Syria to Iraq
Updated 04 June 2023

50 Daesh terrorists, 168 family members repatriated from Syria to Iraq

50 Daesh terrorists, 168 family members repatriated from Syria to Iraq
  • Al-Hol camp, in Kurdish-controlled northeast Syria, is home to about 50,000 people including family members of suspected terrorists

BAGHDAD: Fifty Daesh terrorists and 168 Iraqi members of terrorist families were repatriated from Syria to Iraq on Saturday, an Iraqi official said.
Iraqi authorities “received 50 members of the Daesh from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF),” said the source who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The SDF are the Kurds’ de facto army in the area, and led the battle that dislodged Daesh group fighters from the last scraps of their Syrian territory in 2019.
They will “be the subject of investigations and will face Iraqi justice,” they added.
According to conflict monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights they were detained in Hasakah, northeast Syria.
Additionally, 168 relatives of Daesh-group members were repatriated from Syria’s Al-Hol camp to be relocated to Al-Jadaa camp south of Mosul, the Iraqi official added, where they will undergo psychiatric treatment.
“Once we receive the assurances of their tribal leaders that they will not face reprisals, they will be sent home.”
Al-Hol camp, in Kurdish-controlled northeast Syria, is home to about 50,000 people including family members of suspected terrorists.
Among them are displaced Syrians, Iraqi refugees as well as more than 10,000 foreigners originally from some 60 countries.
In March, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for the swift repatriation of foreigners held in Al-Hol.
Nearly half of the camp’s population is under the age of 12 and residents are “deprived of their rights, vulnerable, and marginalized,” Guterres said in a statement during a visit to Iraq.
“I have no doubt to say that the worst camp that exists in today’s world is Al-Hol, with the worst possible conditions for people and with enormous suffering for the people that have been stranded there for years,” Guterres said.
Since May 2021, hundreds of families have been transferred from Al-Hol to Al-Jadaa in Iraq, with a number of those going on to flee.
The repatriation to Iraq of relatives of fighters who joined the ultra-radical group that controlled one-third of Iraq between 2014 and 2017 has sparked opposition.
In December 2021, Iraqi authorities announced plans to close Al-Jadaa.
But little progress has been made and the relocation of displaced people to their home regions has proven challenging and prompted opposition from local people.