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Turkish control of Suakin challenged in eastern Sudan

December 27 - 2017 SUAKIN
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Sudan's President Omar Al Bashir visit Suakin this week (SUNA)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Sudan's President Omar Al Bashir visit Suakin this week (SUNA)

Leaders in eastern Sudan have harshly criticised the Sudanese government for agreeing to hand over the management of the historic Suakin Island, Sudan’s former main port on the Red Sea, to Turkey.

In an interview with Radio Dabanga, eastern Sudanese civilian leader, Abdallah Musa, called on the government to be transparent and to give the citizens and residents of the region details of the agreement made with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Suakin*.

Musa was reacting to comments by Erdogan on Monday during a three-day visit to Sudan. At the end of an economic meeting between Sudanese and Turkish businessmen on the second day of his visit, Erdogan said: “We had asked for the allocation of Suakin Island for a certain time to re-establish it and restore it to its old origin to which President Al Bashir said yes”.

Musa stressed the need to consult the original owners of the land in Suakin before disposing of it and handing it over to other countries. He warned of the transformation of Sudan to a colony pointing to the rental of millions of acres in Atbara and Siteet dams to Saudi Arabia for decades, the handing over of similar areas of the agricultural lands to China and seeking to hand over the ports of Suakin and Port Sudan to others.

He said they have continued to call on the government to register Suakin Island with UNESCO as an archaeological site without being heard.

Joint communique

Sudan and Turkey on Tuesday issued a joint communique at the end of the visit of President Edrogan's visit to Sudan, the official Sudan News Agency (SUNA) reports.

It said the visit which took place from 24th to the 26th of December 2017, was aimed to deepen the bonds of brotherhood relations between the two counties, relationship based on historical, cultural and social ties which are deeply engrained and to boost the economic partnership between the two countries.

This visit, the communique said, is the first of its kind to the Sudan by a president from Turkey since the Sudan gained its independence and is a qualitative leap in the relations between the two states.

"In a climate full of high confidence and joint understanding and sincere brotherly relations, the two presidents held talks that discussed how to develop bilateral relations, underscoring their joint commitment to develop friendship relations and to deepen them for a wider horizon, based on firm basis of aspiration and join desire to promote the bilateral cooperation and to develop it in the various domains" the communique said

It said the two presidents have agreed within the context of the bilateral discussion to establish strategic partnership between the two countries and in a move to cement this stand the two presidents decided to establish a High Level Strategic Cooperation Council to be headed by the presidents of the two countries. It said the council aims to setting the strategic relations and to develop the in the various domains of cooperation.

The communique said it was within the framework of this council that the two sides decided to form a group of strategic planning to be chaired by the ministers of foreign affairs in the two countries, with the aim of promoting cooperation between the two sides.

It said that during the visit by president Erdogan, the two sides signed a number of agreements to boost economic partnership with emphasis on technology, agricultural industrial production, foreign, education, tourism, environment, radio and television, development of small and medium business, mining, trade and economic partnership

It said during the visit a forum for the Sudanese Turkish businessmen was organised in Khartoum, with 150 businessmen from Turkey taking part in the event, alongside Sudanese companies.

Suakin visit

The two presidents accompanied by senior ministers, officials and academic and scholars, also attended a meeting held under the auspice of "We Will return it to its Previous Status" a slogan for the refurbishment of the historical sites in Suakin town on the Red Sea region. The visit schedule, it said, included a visit to Port Sudan and Suakin towns with the view to boost economic partnership and to celebrate the historical sites that date back to the era of the Othman Empire. The visit to those two towns also saw the signing of a number of agreements in the field of infrastructure, tourism, mining and industry.

During the visit, the communique said, his Excellency president of the Republic Field Marshal Omar Hassan Ahmed Al Bashir, bestowed the highest Sudanese medallion on President Reccep Tayyib Erdogan of Turkey, in recognition and appreciation of Erdogan's role in construction and his leading role in the world.

Honorary Doctorate

The University of Khartoum has also granted President Erdogan the Doctorate of Honor in Law in appreciation and recognition of his outstanding efforts in applying a model of renaissance in his country and also for his establishment of partnership with the Sudan and its civil society organizations in the education, health, humanitarian and developmental and economic assistance in the region and the world at large, serving justice and right in the world.

The two presidents, the communique said, have expressed their confidence that the agreements and the memoranda of understanding signed during the visit would contribute in promoting the bilateral cooperation on the basis of mutual interests and just partnership serving the interest of the two brotherly people in Sudan and in Turkey.

The views of the two sides were identical in the regional and international developments and the two presidents have renewed their commitment to continue coordination and the exchange of support in international forums and arenas.

*Suakin was formerly Sudan’s foremost port. Suakin used to be considered the height of medieval luxury on the Red Sea. The port was also prominent during the period when Sudan was part of the Ottoman Empire during the 19th Century, but the old city built of coral is now in ruins.

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