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Saudi Arabia and Sudan hold first joint naval exercises

February 17, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - The Sudanese Navy and Royal Saudi Naval Forces have conducted their first joint maritime military exercise.

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FILE - A Sudanese navy patrol boat patrols the waters close to where the Iranian Kharg replenishment ship and the Corvette Admiral Naghdi are docked in the Red Sea Sudanese town of Port Sudan on October 31, 2012. (ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/Getty Images)

The disclosure was first made by the Commander of the navy base in Port Sudan, Admiral Magdi Sayed Omer, who told Al-Sudani daily newspaper that “the joint exercises will continue until next Thursday”.

He added that the drill comes in the framework of enhancing maritime diplomacy and Red Sea security.

Omer stressed that the current maneuvers are the first of their kind and will form a starting point for joint efforts aimed at securing the Red Sea and strengthening relations between Sudan and Saudi Arabia.

Later the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) spokesperson Colonel Al-Sawarmi Khalid Sa’ad told state news agency (SUNA) that the purpose of the joint exercise is to train the naval forces in both countries on combating the different kinds of smuggling.

Col. Sa’ad added that Sawarmi said that this is the first exercise of its kind between Sudan and Saudi Arabia stressing that they will continue in the future.

He said that Sudan received two Saudi ships along with an unspecified number of Saudi special forces and marines.

Sudan’s controversial decision to allow two Iranian warships to dock at Port Sudan last October angered its Arab Gulf state neighbours, raising questions about the level of military cooperation between the two countries.

The arrival of the Iranian warships coincided with the bombing of Khartoum’s Al-Yarmook military factory rumoured to be linked to Tehran, with the Sudanese government accusing Israel of carrying out the attack.

Khartoum’s links with Tehran have been met with suspicion, particularly in the Gulf.

The Saudi pro-government Al-Riyadh newspaper blasted Khartoum over the Iranian warships, questioning the logic behind the relationship between the two countries in a heavily critical editorial published that month titled “The fall of masks between Iran and Sudan”.

“Bashir’s government resorting to a state that is in political and security odds with most Arab countries has no logical justification,” the newspaper said.

The editorial accused the Sudanese government of “conducting naive policy”, saying it had turned the country, despite its enormous potential, into a marginalised nation that is unable to attract Arab or foreign investors.

The Sudanese army spokesperson told media at the time the arrival of the warships had nothing to do with the destruction of the Al-Yarmook facility, saying the visit was pre-planned before the airstrike and aimed at sharing military expertise.

Khartoum also denied reports that suggested the arms factory was producing Iranian weapons.

Last November, Sudanese foreign minister Ali Karti publicly criticised the government for allowing Iran’s naval warships to dock in Port Sudan, saying the government’s actions were hurting its relations with its Arab Gulf state neighbours.

He also denied that the country received any request from Tehran to forge an alliance aimed at protecting the Red Sea.