Monday, November 09, 2009

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir Decides Against Attending Istanbul Conference

Sudanese President Decides Against Attending Istanbul Conference

Posted Nov 8, 2009 by Chris Dade

Omar al-Bashir, President of Sudan and the subject of an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, has decided against traveling to Istanbul for a summit of Muslim nations.

The planned visit to Turkey by the Sudanese President had caused dismay in the EU, a body which the nation hosting the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Missoulian says the OIC has 57 member nations, is eager to join.

But Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has reportedly said that he does not believe Omar al-Bashir is guilty of the crimes against humanity in the region of Darfur that have prompted the issuing of the arrest warrant by the court in the Netherlands.

Indeed Mr Erdogan has indicated that speaking to Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu would be more uncomfortable for him than addressing Mr al-Bashir.

According to the Irish Times, quoting the Turkish state-run news agency Anatolian, Mr Erdogan has said:

I wouldn’t be able to speak with Netanyahu so comfortably but I would speak comfortably with Bashir. I say comfortably, ‘what you’ve done is wrong’. And I would say it to his face. Why? Because a Muslim couldn’t do such things. A Muslim could not commit genocide

There are strong economic ties between Turkey and Sudan and Mr al-Bashir, President of his country for over 16 years, would not have faced arrest had he traveled to Istanbul as Turkey does not recognize the ICC.

It is not entirely clear why the Sudanese President, who the BBC says attended a China-Africa summit in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Sunday, will not be present in Istanbul for the summit on Monday.

However remarks made to AFP by a senior Turkish diplomat suggest that Khartoum realizes how much pressure Turkey is facing from the EU and human rights groups because of Mr al-Bashir's visit.

Officially Mr al-Bashir is said to be returning to Sudan in order to find a resolution to a dispute between his National Congress Party, which is currently in power in the Northeastern African country, and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, which is based in Southern Sudan and fought in a 22-year long civil war against the Sudanese government. But the Turkish diplomat is quoted as saying that "The Sudanese see and understand well the difficulties".

Those "difficulties" are quite possibly a reference to the criticism Turkey has attracted in light of its intention to welcome a man, it has been pointed out that Turkey did not actually issue the invitation for Mr al-Bashir to attend the conference, indicted on seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Irish Times reports that the Sudanese President has not been charged with genocide, with the BBC reporting that he does face a charge or charges of that nature.

The Missoulian states that the 65-year-old President is the first government leader to be charged with war-crimes by an international body.

Since the issue of the arrest warrant in March Mr al-Bashir has visited other countries in Africa without any obvious problems.

The UN maintains that 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur, a region of Western Sudan, since 2003. That number is challenged by the Sudanese authorities. Mr al-Bashir is accused of causing in some way the deaths of at least 135,000 people.

Another 2.5 million people have been displaced as a result of the conflict in Darfur.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai arrived in Turkey on Sunday for the one-day summit.

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