By Wasil Ali
April 1, 2009 (WASHINGTON) – The Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva refused to sit next to his Sudanese counterpart Omer Hassan Al-Bashir during a lunch banquet in Arab Gulf state of Qatar, a newspaper reported today.
Both leaders were present for the 2nd annual summit for Arab and South American states held in Doha yesterday.
The Brazilian ‘O Globo’ newspaper said that da Silva was told that he would be sitting next to Bashir and the Somali president Sharif Ahmed.
The newspaper said that the Brazilian leader “ate only the appetizer, and to see the arrival of the President of Sudan, which was delayed, stood up, greeted him [Bashir] briefly and left saying he had an appointment”.
The Brazilian foreign ministry claimed that “no words were even exchanged” between Bashir and Da Silva, the newspaper said.
The Arab-Latin states summit yesterday avoided taking any position on the International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant against Al-Bashir.
It was reported that the South American states have refused to add language to the final declaration adopted by the summit rejecting the ICC arrest warrant or expressing support for Sudan against threats to its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The summit attended by Bashir, hailed the efforts by the Arab League and the African Union (AU) to resolve the Darfur crisis. It called on the Darfur warring parties to cooperate with the international community and respect the international humanitarian laws.
The declaration also stressed the importance of respecting human rights in Darfur.
The newspaper suggested that the “embarrassing” incident was due to the fact that the Brazilian head of state did not want to be seen next to Bashir.
The report said that the Brazilian presidency’s formal position was that Da Silva “wanted to rest” before scheduled meeting for the afternoon. But ‘O Globo’ said that the Brazilian leader “avoided speaking with the press and having to answer questions on Bashir”.
This is the first time Bashir is confronted by such a situation since the ICC warrant. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is reportedly avoiding any interaction with the Sudanese president per advise from his legal department.
European Union (EU) rules also prohibit its members from meeting with individuals indicted by the The-Hague based court.
Brazil is one of the countries that ratified the Rome Statute and was one of the UN Security Council (UNSC) members when resolution 1593 referring the Darfur case to the ICC was adopted.
However the Brazilian delegation at the time abstained from voting in protest of a language added to the resolution for the purpose of excluding American citizens from the jurisdiction of the court if hypothetically implicated in Darfur crimes.
Last August the a Sudanese delegation headed by state minister for foreign affairs Ali Karti visited Brazil, as part of a South American tour, to rally support for Bashir in face of the ICC indictment.
Most South American countries however appear unenthusiastic to lend any support to Bashir.
The president of Chile Michelle Bachelet said she does not share the position of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez or the Arab League which on Monday adopted a resolution rejecting the warrant of arrest against Al Bashir.
Yesterday Chavez slammed the ICC warrant saying that the court should indict former US President George W. Bush for crimes in Iraq rather than Bashir over Darfur.
Chavez, whose country is an ICC member, also invited Bashir to visit Caracas, though he voiced concern about his safety during foreign travel.
Abdel-Wahid Al-Nur, the chairman of the legacy faction Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) hailed Da Silva’s stance while rapping the Arab League.
“It is inconceivable that the leader of a country thousands of miles away from Darfur would stand by the side of morality while those who are geographically close to us and claim to be our brothers choose to support the villain” Al-Nur told Sudan Tribune by phone from Paris.
“We were hoping that the Arab League would take a firm stand against the killings of our people in Darfur but they took the opposite direction and rallied behind the man responsible for their misery. They uttered no word on Bashir’s expulsion of aid groups that are providing Darfuris with food and health care” he added.
“This is very sad and regrettable. Why would the Arab League be so vocal about few thousand people killed in Gaza and not on 300,000 slaughtered in Darfur? Are they not human beings? This is exactly the double standards they complain about” Al-Nur said.
This week the Arab League issued a strongly worded statement in support of the Sudanese president calling for annulling the arrest warrant which they described as violation of international law.
The statement also urged its members not to cooperate with the ICC in executing the arrest warrant.