First Published: 2017-05-17

Saudi invites Sudan leader to Trump summit
Bashir, who is wanted for alleged war crimes, has been invited to summit with US President, Arab and Muslim leaders.
Middle East Online

Bashir has evaded arrest since his indictment by the International Criminal Court in 2009 for alleged genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity

RIYADH Saudi Arabia has invited Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted for alleged war crimes, to a summit with US President Donald Trump and Arab and Muslim leaders, a Saudi official said Wednesday.

"He (Bashir) is invited," the official noted without saying whether the Sudanese leader would attend the top-level talks on Sunday.

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

He will address the summit on his "hopes for a peaceful vision of Islam," the White House said Tuesday.

- War crimes and genocide -

Khartoum's top diplomat confirmed Wednesday that Bashir, who has been charged with war crimes and genocide, will attend the same summit in Saudi Arabia as the US president.

"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."

Asked if Bashir 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)".

Bashir has evaded arrest since his indictment by the International Criminal Court 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.

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.

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.

 

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