Turkey wants to see Sudan standing tall on its own feet and making use of its rich resources, the country’s vice president said on Thursday.
“We don’t want to see Sudan in the middle of proxy wars and as a country that cannot realize its potential, but as a country that assesses its rich resources in the best way … and that stands strongly on its own feet,” Fuat Oktay said at a joint news conference with Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, vice president of the Sudanese Transitional Sovereign Council.
The two spoke to reporters in the Turkish capital Ankara following a meeting between delegations from both sides. The Sudanese delegation arrived in Turkey on Thursday on a two-day official visit.
During the meeting, all aspects of Turkey-Sudan relations were discussed, Oktay said, adding that wide opportunities for bilateral cooperation were evaluated as well.
“We see today’s meeting as an important opportunity and beginning for our cooperation in the coming period,” the Turkish official said.
On the US decision to remove Sudan from the list of countries that support terrorism, Oktay said it is “a belated step, but a step in the right direction.”
“We are also pleased that the financial and economic sanctions and restrictions that Sudan has been unfairly subjected to for years have been lifted recently,” he added.
Resolve disputes through dialogue, reconciliation
Oktay expressed hope that the existing disputes that pose a threat to peace and stability in the Horn of Africa region are resolved through dialogue and reconciliation, saying they also discussed the Al-Fascaga conflict between Sudan and Ethiopia.
“We will continue our efforts both to contribute to the prosperity of the region and to add value to the development of the friendly and brotherly country of Sudan with a win-win understanding,” he said.
“At the 15th Joint Economic Commission meeting in 2018, we took concrete decisions and implemented a wide range of actions, from transport to agriculture, from finance to energy and from education to culture and tourism,” the Turkish vice president said, adding: “Despite the transition period in Sudan and the COVID-19 epidemic, we have progressed in the direction of our goals.”
“At our meeting today, we agreed to continue our cooperation and relations strongly within the framework of the previously reached agreements,” he noted.
Oktay noted that Turkey’s trade volume with Sudan exceeded $398 million in 2019 and $481 million in 2020.
“We believe that with the implementation of the Turkey-Sudan Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement we signed in 2018, our bilateral trade will be moved to much higher levels,” he said.
He stated that Turkey has provided Sudan with market opening for agricultural products, which it does not provide in most of the existing free trade agreements, and added: “This will allow Sudan to open its domestic market to the world after the transition process.”
“Bilateral cooperation on agriculture, railways, mining, oil and electricity sectors, with the development of a common platform in the field of culture, science, industry and technology in the coming period is one of the strategic actions we have decided to step up,” he said.
He said Turkey will continue all of its cooperation objectives within the framework of a comprehensive “Turkey-Sudan Action Plan.”
“With the opening of Turkish Ziraat Participation Bank’s Khartoum branch in 2020, an important step was taken to support our trade and investment relations. Sudan Ziraat Participation Bank, the first Turkish bank to be opened on the African continent, will continue to be the only institution where entrepreneurs of the two countries transact safely and receive support.”
Support in field of health
The Nyala-Turkey Sudan Education and Research Hospital in Darfur, built and operated with the support of Turkey, has treated thousands of Sudanese so far, Oktay said, noting that the hospital became even more important during the pandemic.
“Being beside Sudan in the fight against the epidemic, we delivered the most critical medical supplies and respirators to Sudan through our Health Ministry, Turkish Red Crescent, TIKA and some other Turkish NGOs.
“We will continue to stand by Sudan in the field of health through work such as the operation of Sudan Merowe Hospital by our Health Ministry, training of health workers and medical supplies support,” said Oktay.
Dagalo, for his part, praised the Turkish nation and the government for always supporting Sudan in every platform and standing by them in the challenging times and crises.
Stating that his visit is the start of many others in the future, he said they had a “fruitful meeting” with Oktay.
Sudan is going through an exceptional period, he said, adding that despite the challenging conditions, they achieved to establish peace in the country.
“Therefore, we made progress with the support of the international community, the US and the countries that stand by Sudan, and with our efforts.
“As one of them, Sudan was removed from the list of countries supporting terrorism,” Dagalo said.
Highlighting his country’s rich resources, Dagalo said it has not reached the level it should have.
The Sudanese government signed a peace agreement last year with opposition groups except for two rebel movements – one in the western region of Darfur known as the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army, and the Sudan Popular Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) from the south in the Nuba mountains region.
The armed opposition SPLM-N rejected the deal because it demanded Sudan do away with sharia law and become a secular, democratic state.
But in March, the government and the SPLM-N signed a roadmap for peace talks and agreed to separate religion from the state. Peace talks between the two sides just began on Wednesday.
Dagalo also noted that they will revise and modernize already existing agreements, which were signed between Turkey and the former Sudanese government but not implemented.
“We desire to realize these agreements on a mutual win-win basis,” he said.
*Writing by Merve Berker and Sena Guler