4 Aug 2017

Sudanese State Minister for Foreign Affairs Atta Elmanan Bakhit: Sudanese President al-Bashir welcomed in Russia at highest possible level

Sudanese State Minister for Foreign Affairs Atta Elmanan Bakhit has given an interview to Interfax during his visit to Moscow in which he speaks about a visit of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to Russia, bilateral Russian-Sudanese economic and military cooperation and describes sanctions in the global politics as "immoral and illegal".

Question: Mr. Bakhit, it was reported that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was going to pay a visit to Moscow in the coming weeks. Is such a visit being organized and has the date been set? What would be on the agenda?

Answer: We have spoken about the visit for quite a long time. Today, it has been one of the issues that we discussed. What I can say at the moment is that the visit of President al-Bashir is welcomed by the Russian authorities at the highest possible level, and they believe this will be an important visit. It is coming at the time when our relations are really so developed and are going forward. What we agreed upon is that we need a little more time to prepare a lot of agreements that are to be signed during this visit. We are looking forward to it and are planning that it will take place before the end of this year.

Q.: We‘ve heard it might take place in autumn, as soon as September...

A.: I think that in September or October. It depends on how the technical side will work out, we have to finish all the agreements. We have good relations, we have a lot of real projects - Russian projects – being implemented in Sudan, so there is an interest to invest and to have intense cooperation with Russia. All this needs to be well-prepared, so it we can sign the agreements during the visit.
Russian companies are interested in two things. They are interested in mining, especially gold. I think that before the end of this year two or three companies will join to sign agreements to take some areas where they will start exploration and production of gold. But we want to take the cooperation further, there are huge resources in gas and petrol. And the third field is agriculture. We are very rich in agricultural lands and water etc. I think that these are the fields where we really can cooperate: a country like Sudan, that has a lot of resources and a country like Russia that has advanced technology. I think that, joining together, this marriage will give a good result for the countries involved.

Q.: How would you describe the current level of political cooperation between the two countries? Is Sudan interested in closer cooperation of the military sphere, in purchasing the Russian military equipment?

A.: Political cooperation is advanced already, and Russia is a great supporter of Sudan in all international forums, including the UN Security Council, and we are very grateful for that. As for the military cooperation, Moscow is our most important partner in this sphere. As you know, Russia helps Sudan very much in military technology. I used to tell people that Sudanese skies are covered by Russian airplanes either civilian or military. Even the private jet of the president is a Russian jet...

Q.: Interesting...

A.: That‘s true, that‘s true. And to that end, we are to some extent advanced in military industry, and that is because of our good military cooperation with Russia. We are going to boost, to take that forward really, and after the visit that will be seen. In fact, our army is more used to the Russian arms than Western arms. In this sphere and in this cooperation with Russia military aspects are really welcomed, and they are developing.

Q.: What is the current security situation in Sudan and in the Darfur region in particular? Are there any signs that the sanctions might be lifted soon?

A.: Security situation has very much improved. I think the government‘s control of the situation is excellent for the time being. You know that in the last five years we have UN forces in Darfur that are ensuring security. Now they have agreed that the situation has really changed. There is no confrontation. There is no war in Darfur, and that is why just a couple of weeks ago the UN Security Council approved the reduction of this force. And this will be a gradual reduction that will go until we have a clear exit policy for the UN forces from Darfur. That is one indication that the security situation is excellent. Secondly, the UN and Darfur have been working for a long time in what is called emergency relief. Now for the first time – and we signed it just two weeks ago – the UN will go from relief to development. And going from relief to development means that there are no emergency humanitarian issues in the country. So, the situation is really improving, it is far better now, and the government is in full control of the situation in the country, and we can see Sudan contributing to bringing peace and stability to its territory itself, but also it will contribute to doing that in neighboring countries.

Q.: As long as the situation has that much improved, are there any signs that the sanctions imposed on Sudan by the U.S. might be lifted soon?

A.: Let me tell you two things. Sanctions are immoral and illegal. The American sanctions are political. Now I think sanctions are loosing any reason and that is why since January 2017 the Americans have partially lifted sanctions, we had worked on that with the Obama administration. It was expected that the sanctions would have been completely lifted in July. Unfortunately, the current administration extended the sanctions for three more months. We hope that after this period the sanctions will be completely lifted because there are reports coming from American institutions saying that Sudan fulfilled its obligations and there is no reason for continue imposing sanctions on Sudan.

Q.: And this three months period ends in...

A.: On the 12th of October.

Q.: As to the sanctions, at the moment for Sudan and Russia it is in a way a common problem. Have you discussed this issue during your visit to Moscow?

A.: We discussed it and we are fully supporting Russia. As I told you and told you very clearly, sanctions are immoral, illegal, and we are in principle against sanctions being imposed on a country. We fully support Russian in this stand.

Q.: What meetings have you held here in Moscow and what is planned for the coming days?

A.: We were invited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And this day [August 3] was dedicated to bilateral discussions. We are going to see some private companies that are interested in Sudan. We have seen a lot of journalists today. We also have contacts with many interested institutions, because the final objective is to enforce deeper relations between Sudan and Russia, and they will be not only political, but friendly relations advanced in terms of military cooperation and investment.