ANKARA: Sour Taste Of Sudanese Visit

SOUR TASTE OF SUDANESE VISIT

Turkish Daily News
Jan 24 2008
Turkey

Sudanese President Omar Hasan al-Bashir’s visit to Turkey has shocked
international relations experts who openly condemn Ankara’s top level
contacts with a leader held responsible for humanitarian atrocities
in his own country.

"One would think Turkey’s leaders would be a little more careful
before laying down the red carpet for the likes of President Omar
al Bashir of Sudan," said former United States ambassador to Ankara,
Morton Abromowitz. The international community considers Bashir as an
illegitimate dictator presiding over a pariah state guilty of crimes
against humanity, he said.

"He is a seemingly strange bedfellow for Turkey’s AKP [Justice and
Development Party] trying to prove to many domestic and Western
observers of its balanced, well-calibrated foreign policy, and its
attachment to international norms," Abromowitz said.

Last year, defying Turkish state policy of avoiding contacts with
Bashir, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoðan visited Sudanese capital
Khartoum and said that "Muslims would commit such murders."

Bashir is considered to have given a free hand to the Janjaweed,
the Arab militia that commits mass killings and systematic violence
against Darfur’s population to quell the rebellion launched in
2003 by the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A), representing
non-Muslim tribal Africans, and the Justice and Equality Movement
(JEM), a movement of African Muslims to claim equal rights.

A peace deal was signed in 2006 between the government and rebel
factions in the Darfur region, only to incite divisions between
dissident groups and exacerbate violence. In June 2006, three rebel
groups including the JEM and part of the SLM/A joined forces to form
the National Redemption Front (NRF), which opposes the May 2006
peace agreement. At least 200,000 people have lost their life and
2.5 million people have been driven from their homes as aresult of
violence in the region.

Government policy alienates experts

The AKP’s attempts to form contacts with the al -Bashir government had
been blocked by intense resistance from Foreign Ministry officials
who asked President Abdullah Gul, at the time foreign minister,
to ignore the Sudanese leader’s requests to visit Turkey.

But they failed to stop Erdoðan from visiting Darfur in March 2006
to participate in a meeting of the Arab League, where he said that
no assimilation or genocide was committed in Darfur.

International relations expert Soli Ozel dubbed the visit as "foreign
policy fantasies of the government" and lamented the decision to
welcome Bashir in Ankara.

"The government claims to be able to speak about everything with
everyone. This is nonsense and is a shame to Turkey," said Ozel.

Abromowitz pointed to Turkey’s endeavor to persuade the international
community that there was no Armenian "genocide" in 1915 and noted
that Bashir’s visit will reduce the persuasiveness of Turkey’s thesis.

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