Friday 17 November 2017

Bashir attendance at summit with Trump opposed by US

Bashir attendance at summit with Trump opposed by US
(AFP 05/18/17)

Sudan said Wednesday that President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted for genocide, will appear at the same summit in Saudi Arabia as Donald Trump, but the United States indicated it opposes his attendance.

"I can confirm President Bashir will go ... to Saudi Arabia," Sudan's Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour told reporters in Geneva. "We look forward (to) normalisation of our relations with the US."

But the US embassy in Khartoum said in a statement it opposes "invitations, facilitation, or support for travel by any person subject to outstanding International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrants, including President Bashir".

Bashir has evaded arrest since his indictment by the ICC in 2009 for alleged genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity related to the conflict in Darfur that has killed tens of thousands.

He denies the charges.

The Saudi-hosted summit of Arab and Muslim leaders is expected to include top level talks on Sunday.

Trump is scheduled to be in Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest sites, from Saturday on his first foreign trip since taking office in January.

Asked ifBashir expected to shake hands with the US president, Ghandour said it was impossible to predict, but added that "a handshake doesn't mean a lot if relations are not (good)".

Khartoum has said it is keen to improve relations with Washington under Trump.

"Sudan renews its commitment to continue a bilateral dialogue in order to reach full and normal relations between the two countries in the interests of their peoples," its foreign ministry said on March 7.

That was despite Sudan's inclusion on an executive order signed by Trump in March to temporarily close US borders to nationals from six Muslim-majority countries.

The travel ban has since been blocked by a US judge.

After signing of the order, however, Sudan voiced "deep regret and discontent" over the move.

- 'Partner in fighting terror' -

It condemned the ban, saying it came despite Khartoum engaging in talks with Washington on fighting terrorism.

"These negotiations confirmed that Sudan plays a big role as a partner in fighting terrorism that endangers people of both countries and of the world," the foreign ministry said at the time.

Before leaving office, president Barack Obama eased decades-old US sanctions against Sudan, but kept Khartoum on the blacklist.

Sudan was designated a state sponsor of terrorism in 1993 and has been subject to a US trade embargo since 1997 over its alleged support for Islamist groups.

Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was based in Khartoum from 1992 to 1996.

Washington believes Khartoum's terror ties have ebbed, but has kept sanctions in place because of the scorched-earth tactics it has used against ethnic minority rebels in Darfur.

In its statement on Wednesday, the US embassy said there has been "no change to Sudan's inclusion on the United States' State Sponsor of Terrorism list".

"We have been quite clear with the government of Sudan on the steps that need to be taken for us to consider delisting, as well as what would be required to make progress in easing economic sanctions."

An end to fighting in Sudan's hotspots -- Blue Nile and South Kordofan states as well as the Darfur region -- had been set as a precondition for sanctions being lifted.

According to the United Nations, 300,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced since the Darfur conflict erupted in 2003.

South Africa came under fire for failing to arrest Bashir in 2015 when he attended an African Union summit in Johannesburg.

It insisted he had "head of state immunity" after letting him slip out of the country under shadowy circumstances.

Saudi Arabia is not a signatory to the Rome Statute under which the ICC was founded, while Sudan and the United States have not ratified the statute of the Hague-based court.

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