Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sour taste of Sudanese visit

Thursday, January 24, 2008
ANKARA – Turkish Daily News
If Turkey were repentant on the Armenian genocide it would have recognized the Darfur genocide instead of courting the Sudan's perpetrator of the genocide.
Sudanese President Omar Hasan al-Bashir's visit to Turkey has shocked international relations experts who openly condemn Ankara's top level contacts with a leader held responsible for humanitarian atrocities in his own country.

“One would think Turkey's leaders would be a little more careful before laying down the red carpet for the likes of President Omar al Bashir of Sudan,” said former United States ambassador to Ankara, Morton Abromowitz. The international community considers Bashir as an illegitimate dictator presiding over a pariah state guilty of crimes against humanity, he said.

“He is a seemingly strange bedfellow for Turkey's AKP [Justice and Development Party] trying to prove to many domestic and Western observers of its balanced, well-calibrated foreign policy, and its attachment to international norms,” Abromowitz said.

Last year, defying Turkish state policy of avoiding contacts with Bashir, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited Sudanese capital Khartoum and said that “Muslims would commit such murders.”

Bashir is considered to have given a free hand to the Janjaweed, the Arab militia that commits mass killings and systematic violence against Darfur's population to quell the rebellion launched in 2003 by the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A), representing non-Muslim tribal Africans, and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), a movement of African Muslims to claim equal rights.

A peace deal was signed in 2006 between the government and rebel factions in the Darfur region, only to incite divisions between dissident groups and exacerbate violence. In June 2006, three rebel groups including the JEM and part of the SLM/A joined forces to form the National Redemption Front (NRF), which opposes the May 2006 peace agreement. At least 200,000 people have lost their life and 2.5 million people have been driven from their homes as aresult of violence in the region.

Government policy alienates experts

The AKP's attempts to form contacts with the al -Bashir government had been blocked by intense resistance from Foreign Ministry officials who asked President Abdullah Gül, at the time foreign minister, to ignore the Sudanese leader's requests to visit Turkey.

But they failed to stop Erdoğan from visiting Darfur in March 2006 to participate in a meeting of the Arab League, where he said that no assimilation or genocide was committed in Darfur.

International relations expert Soli Özel dubbed the visit as “foreign policy fantasies of the government” and lamented the decision to welcome Bashir in Ankara.

“The government claims to be able to speak about everything with everyone. This is nonsense and is a shame to Turkey,” said Özel.

Abromowitz pointed to Turkey's endeavor to persuade the international community that there was no Armenian ''genocide'' in 1915 and noted that Bashir's visit will reduce the persuasiveness of Turkey's thesis.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

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