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Sudan not yet invited to EU-Africa summit: sources

March 29, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese government has not received an invitation to participate in the 4th European Union (EU)-Africa summit taking place in Belgium next week, sources told Sudan Tribune.

Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir attends the closing ceremony of the 25th Arab Summit in Kuwait City on 26 March 2014 (Photo: Reuters/Hamad I Mohammed)

The gathering brings together 90 countries from Europe and Africa, including 65 heads of state and government.

Earlier this week the Sudanese foreign minister Ali Karti said that his country will boycott the summit but gave no reason for this decision.

But diplomatic sources said that invitations for this conference are usually addressed to the heads of state which in this case is president Omer Hassan al-Bashir who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) since 2009 on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

However, they did not rule out sending a delegation comprised of lower ranking officials if an invitation comes in.

Bashir has been shunned by the west since then and has not been able to fly to or through Europe for fear of facing arrest.

According to Agence France Presse (AFP), the EU refused to invite Sudan, although a Brussels official said the African Union (AU) was free to invite Bashir.

The 3rd Africa- EU summit which took place in Libya in 2010 saw a diplomatic fallout between Tripoli and Khartoum after the former asked Bashir to stay away and send someone else.

At the time a Spanish official told Associated Press (AP) that the 27 members of the EU had agreed to stand up and walk out if the Sudanese president appeared at the joint summit.

A similar incident occurred in 2009 when France decided to move the France-Africa summit from Egypt to prevent the Sudanese leader from attending. Cairo had insisted on allowing Bashir to take part.

Another controversy is overshadowing this summit after Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe announced that he will boycott this summit after his wife was denied a visa to enter Europe.

"We are no longer going to the EU-Africa. We disagreed on the composition of our delegation," said a source at the Zimbabwean foreign ministry to AFP, who asked not to be named.

Zimbabwe urged the AU to shun the summit for failing to invite all the Africa bloc’s leaders including Sudan and Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic when Egypt - which has been suspended from the AU - has been asked.

Mugabe and his wife remain targeted by an EU travel ban but the restriction can be suspended temporarily to allow the head of state to attend international forums.

"We have been discussing this for some time. We have reached agreement and Zimbabwe has been invited but no spouses have been invited," an EU official told AFP.

The EU ambassador to Harare, Aldo Dell’Ariccia, said when Zimbabwe asked for a visa for Mugabe’s wife "they were told she should apply through the normal channels".

"The EU is just following it’s legal framework and there can’t be any movement from that position," Dell’Ariccia told AFP.

Mugabe’s spokesman on Tuesday said the EU’s decision was "very strange".

"What God has put together the EU is trying to separate," said George Charamba in the state controlled daily, The Herald. "Do they expect the President to respect the EU and disrespect his own marriage?"

(ST)