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Al-Bashir attends end of joint Sudanese-Saudi air force drill

President Omer al-Bashir at the joint Saudi-Sudanese drills 09 April 2017 (SUNA Photo)

April 9, 2017 (KHARTOUM) - Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir Sunday has attended the end of a 12-day joint Sudanese-Saudi military drill at the Meroe air base, 350 kilometres north of the capital, Khartoum.

Dubbed “Blue Shield” the exercise involved some 250 Saudi air force members and over 450 Sudanese militaries.

Sudan took part in the exercise with more than two dozen fighter planes including MiG-29s and Sukhoi jets while Saudi Arabia sent “18” F-15 fighter jets and Eurofighter Typhoons.

In his address before the closing ceremony, al-Bashir said: “the development of air defence capabilities in the Arab countries represents a deterrent to aspirations of the enemies who seek to control Arab resources”.

He stressed the importance of training and its role in enhancing self-confidence and its direct contribution to raising morale, which in his words “is the key to victory in all battles”.

“In addition to being a means to increase combat efficiency and achieve the readiness of the forces, the joint projects and training exercises strengthen the bond of brotherhood and solidarity among the participating countries,” said al-Bashir in the first ever joint Saudi-Sudanese air exercise.

Al-Bashir considered the “Blue Shield” drill an indicator “of the strength of the eternal and evolving relations between Sudan and Saudi Arabia”.

For his part, the Saudi Air Force commander Major General Mohammad Saleh Al Otaibi said the exercise represents “strategic depth to defend the Arab and Muslim peoples”.

For years, Khartoum’s regime maintained close relations with Riyadh’s arch-rivals in Tehran.

However, in January 2016, Sudan severed ties with Iran after an attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran amid a row over the execution of a Shiite Muslim cleric.

Sudanese troops are deployed in Yemen since October 2014 within a Saudi-led Arab coalition against the Shiite Houthi militants.

In February 2016, the Sudanese army participated in a regional military exercise including Saudi and Gulf armies, Egypt, Jordanian, Pakistani, and Sudanese armies.

Last year, there were unconfirmed reports about a five billion dollar military assistance from Saudi Arabia to Sudan.