Zuma agrees to visit Sudan after meeting Al Bashir
President Jacob Zuma of South Africa met with President Omar Al Bashir in Bejing on Thursday, where he agreed to visit Sudan and strengthen their ties. Pakistani newspapers reported that Al Bashir's aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing on its way to China, where the Sudanese president has signed economic agreements with China during celebrations that mark the end of World War II.
Zuma's and Al Bashir's meeting was held in the capital city of China against the backdrop of today's military parade to mark the defeat of Japan and the end of World War II. According to a press statement by the South African Presidency, “South Africa and Sudan enjoy warm bilateral relations”, adding that 16 bilateral agreements have been concluded between the two countries to date.
“South Africa seeks to further strengthen cooperation with Sudan in the fields of agriculture‚ agro-processing‚ science and technology‚ energy‚ infrastructure development‚ mining and retail […] Today‚ the two leaders recommitted themselves to elevating the bilateral Joint Co-operation Commission (JCC) to a Ministerial level.
“President Zuma accepted the invitation by President Al Bashir to visit Sudan‚” the statement read.
A few months ago the South African government came under fire after disobeying a court order prohibiting Al Bashir from leaving the country, while the Sudanese leader is indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of crimes against humanity and genocide.
Last Tuesday‚ the opposition Democratic Alliance attempted to ask Parliament to investigate the circumstances under which Al Bashir had been allowed to leave South Africa on 15 June. On that day the president was ordered by a High Court to remain in the country, after he attended the African Union summit in Johannesburg.
The DA appealed for an investigation into whether the Constitution had been breached and whether Zuma should be removed from office for failing to effect the ICC arrest warrant.
Aircraft lands in Pakistan
Pakistani newspapers this week said that the presidential aircraft's fuel reserve reached critically low levels, forcing it to land in Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore with President Al Bashir on board. Al Bashir’s trips are generally carefully planned in light of his ICC arrest warrant.
It is not clear why the unexpected shortage occurred for a trip that had to be planned beforehand. The governor of Punjab province, Rafiq Rajwana, and Lahore’s District coordination officer, Muhamad Usman went to the airport to greet Al Bashir before he left after the refuelling stop.
Stringent security arrangements were made during the aircraft’s stop at Lahore airport, Pakistani media reported.
In an embarrassing situation in June 2011, Al Bashir was on his way to China for a state visit when Turkmenistan and Tajikistan refused to grant permission to his aircraft. As a result, he was forced to return to Tehran where he attended a summit, awaiting a decision on a new route to reach Beijing.
Chinese investments in Sudan
While attending the celebrations in Beijing, the Sudanese president pledged to protect Chinese companies and investments in Sudan and to undertake all necessary measures to ensure their success. On Wednesday he signed several agreements and memorandums of understanding between Chinese and Sudanese companies.
These include the purchase of two airbus aircrafts by Sudan Airways and the Chinese Jong Cha company, two passenger trains for between Khartoum and Wad Madani, the implementation of a mobile networks project, and expansion of a water station project in Soba.
Al Bashir described the establishment of the strategic partnership between Sudan and China as a “great leap forward in relations between the two countries”.
(RDM News Wire, Sudan Tribune)
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