March 11, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – A long awaited economic conference in Turkey that was to discuss Sudan’s ailing finances after the South’s secession, has been postponed indefinitely, officials and diplomats in Khartoum said.
- Two landmarks, Sultan Ahmed Mosque, left, and Hagia Sophia, seen with the Bosporus, in Istanbul, Turkey September 2011 (AP)
Sudanese minister for international cooperation Ishraqa Sayed Mahmood who is also head of the technical preparatory committee for the conference, said the decision was taken upon agreement of the main organisers namely Turkey, Norway and the United Kingdom.
Mahmood was quoted by Sudan official news agency SUNA as saying that the move was made in order to provide for "constructive dialogue" on lifting sanctions imposed on Sudan despite its commitment to the implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
The CPA is the accord by which north & south Sudan ended more than two decades of civil war and allowed southerners to vote in a referendum to decide on whether they want to establish their own state or remain united with the north.
The result of the vote held in January 2011 came overwhelmingly in favour of secession and the breakup occurred officially six months later.
Khartoum has been seeking help from other countries particularly Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and China. So far it has met little success.
The United States (US) had offered Khartoum the chance to put relations on a better footing if it facilitated and recognised the South Sudan referendum.
But shortly after the partition. violence broke out in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Abyei states, while US officials say they have not seen sufficient progress in western Darfur region, where mainly non-Arab rebels took up arms against Khartoum in 2003 leading to a harsh government crackdown that Washington and some activists labelled genocide.
Sudan was angered by what it described as US backtracking on its promises to normalise ties and lift economic sanctions.
The events surrounding the Istanbul conference will likely add to the mistrust between the two countries.
In her statement, the Sudanese international cooperation minister said her government was surprised with a US request that their name be taken off the list of countries invited. She went on to say that Washington said it can only participate if the agenda includes humanitarian situation in Blue Nile and South Kordofan as well as outstanding issues between Khartoum and Juba.
South Kordofan and Blue Nile, both of which border South Sudan, are home to tens of thousands of fighters who battled Khartoum as part of the southern army during a civil war that ended in 2005. Khartoum accuses Juba of continuing to back the insurgents, which South Sudan denies.
Sudan has rejected any plan for an aid corridor without involvement by its government organisations, saying that supplies could go to rebels from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N). But the United Nations (UN) as well as the US warned that famine could be forthcoming unless Khartoum allows relief groups in.
The US said it could begin a unilateral aid operation in the two states without Khartoum’s permission. The UN says more than 410,000 people have been displaced by the fighting.
Mahmood claimed that the US warned Sudan that it will seek to lobby other nations not to participate in the Istanbul conference. She described the US justifications for delaying the gathering as "unrealistic" saying that technical preparations have been completed and that the government has made significant efforts to contain the humanitarian situation in the two states.
The Sudanese minister went on to say that the US is "fully aware" of the real reasons behind the conflict and the parties that support rebel movements, She blamed Washington for not seeking to work with her government to address the situation through communication and creating common grounds while recognizing Sudan’s legitimate right to defend its citizens .
She accused the US of double standards since it hosted an investment conference to support South Sudan last December.
Diplomats speaking to Reuters said the conference was unlikely to happen any time soon with no Western economic aid or debt relief likely to be forthcoming as long as fighting in the two states continued.
The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) expressed fury at the US for causing the conference’s postponement stressing that they will not be forced into allowing aid groups into Blue Nile and South Kordofan.
"We were hoping that the [US] administration would commit itself for once to its moral obligations," said the NCP’s deputy media officer Yasser Yusuf.
Yusuf said Washington wants to stall development in Sudan and is covering it with "false pretences".