Sudan-Turkey: Fear keeps Al-Bashir out of Muslim summit

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Sudan’s president, Mr. Omar Al-Bashir has expressed distrust in Turkey, as the International Criminal Court (ICC) wanted leader declines to attend a Muslim summit in Istanbul, for fear of being arrested.

The government of Turkey invited Mr. Bashir for the Muslim summit, and assured him that he would not be arrested. But with an interest in joining the European Union (EU), Turkey is under pressure to comply with the demands of the EU, even though Turkey has pointed out it is not a signatory to the treaty which set up the Hague-based ICC.

Mr. Bashir was scheduled to attend the summit, but after a call by the European Union demanding Turkey to withdraw the invitation to the Sudanese leader, Mr. Bashir has chosen to stay back in Sudan.

The indicted leader was due in Istanbul today, November 9, for the summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). But Turkey, who is seeking EU membership, has come under pressure from Brussels to drop Mr. Bashir from the guest list.

Mr. Bashir was indicted by the ICC of running a campaign of genocide that killed 35,000 people outright, and a 100,000 through a slow death strategy, and of forcing 2.5 million to flee their homes in Darfur.

“No Muslim could perpetrate genocide. If there was such a thing as genocide, we could talk about it face to face with President Bashir,” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying. Turkish officials say that Mr. Bashir was invited by the OIC and not Ankara. The Sudanese see and understand well the difficulties.

Mr. Bashir who has denied the ICC’s accusations has visited several African countries since the ICC issued his warrant for his arrest in March.

According to Jonathan Head, BBC Analyst in Istanbul, “No-one is saying who blinked, but it was probably Turkey. On Friday President Abdullah Gul brushed aside a private plea from the European Union saying it was not the EU’s place to interfere. And over the weekend Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sounded an equally defiant note saying he did not believe the Sudanese leader was involved in war crimes in Darfur.

“Western governments have been careful not to challenge Turkey, as its foreign policy has appeared to shift sharply Eastwards. But it is likely that quiet pressure from the US and the EU helped to change Turkey’s mind over President Bashir.”

Mr Bashir was in Egypt on Sunday, taking part in a China-Africa summit in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, and he is to return to Khartoum to find a solution to a dispute between his ruling National Congress Party and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, Sudan’s state-run news agency Suna reported on Saturday.

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