Former Sudan PM al-Mahdi: Lift of US Sanctions will Change Nothing

al-Mahdi

Khartoum – Former Sudanese Prime Minister and head of the opposition Umma Party al-Sadeq al-Mahdi made light of the effects of the lift of US sanctions on Sudan, saying its outcomes will remain minimal unless his country’s name was removed from the US list of countries sponsoring terrorism.

Al-Mahdi, who is also the leader of al-Ansar religious group, said the internal national dialogue was unsuccessful, adding it will lead to failures that were already seen in the past.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, al-Mahdi called for refraining from resorting to the old national dialogue and overcoming the “roadmap” suggested by African mediation to instead reach the “fruit of the roadmap.”

On Darfur, he warned of possible tribal clashes there, adding that the government is “playing with fire” by depending on tribal militias for security.

Regarding his party’s dissidents, al-Mahdi mocked them and described them as a “zakat (charity) tax” from his party to the ruling one.

On the expected US lifting of Sudan sanctions, al-Mahdi believed this is being given too much optimism “because it ignores a bigger problem which is that Sudan is still listed as one of the countries supporting terrorism.”

Furthermore, he noted that there are other international sanctions that will not be affected by the lift of the US ones.| Moreover, releasing Sudan from its debts is far more important.

The head of the Umma Party stated that lift of sanctions has a limited effect because Sudan needs to produce something for export.

“Our position is the same. These sanctions must be reversed because they affect the Sudanese citizens, but they will not have a major effect,” al-Mahdi confirmed.

The US had previously determined five tracks in order to lift the sanctions imposed on Sudan which include: counter-terrorism cooperation; addressing the threat of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA); ending hostilities in the “Two Areas” (South Kordofan and Blue Nile) and Darfur; improving humanitarian access; and ending negative interference in South Sudan.

Al-Mahdi said that more work should be done by Sudanese government in that area. He explained that in the US, there those who place importance on security and intelligence and therefore believe that Sudan is committed to the five tracks, while others think there should be more political and press freedom.

When asked about Darfur, al-Mahdi admitted that the international community exerted a lot efforts in the area at a time when the UN does not have enough troops for all the problems and clashes in Sudan and South Sudan. He said that each year, the peacekeeping missions costs half a billion dollars.

The opposition leader explained that the missions reduced the number of its forces because of a lack of volunteers and several countries withdrew their troops.

The peacekeeping role ends when a peace agreement is reached and all weapons have been collected, according to al-Mahdi, who said that almost all tribes and militias in Darfur are armed.

He added that the government made a mistake by relying on tribal militias in its security measures.

Al-Mahdi therefore suggested a new solution, saying that once Sudanese parties agree on it, it can be supported by the international community and African Union.

He stated that all civil factions within the Nidaa of Sudan Coalition are in agreement, yet the armed groups suffer from organizational issues which led to chaos. He also added that in the near future, Nidaa of Sudan could include all other forces that want a new system in a unified front.

The former PM said that divisions could indeed impede the dialogue and increase foreign interference, yet he believes that once accepted, the new suggestions could overcome the ramifications.

“We want to convince all parties with the fruit of the dialogue,” he said.

Bassil: Our Alliance with Future Movement Will Be Translated in Elections

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil speaks during a press conference in Berlin, on May 6, 2014

Beirut – Lebanon’s Foreign Affairs Minister Gebran Bassil said that the new era, led by President Michel Aoun, was focused on works and achievements.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Bassil noted that his party has put behind all the “bickering” and decided to open a new chapter of political work.

He warned, however, that his party would expose all those who seek to hamper the country’s political process.

Bassil, Aoun’s son-in-law and the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, said that his party would nominate Muslim candidates for the upcoming parliamentary elections.

He strongly denied claims that previous proposals of the new voting system were aimed at guaranteeing his arrival to Parliament.

While he said that he was committed to the political agreement that resulted in the adoption of the current electoral law, the minister stressed that he would seek to amend the law following the elections.

“Lebanon is now on a constitutional, independent path,” Bassil said, adding: “The Lebanese people, for the first time in their history, have elected a president with their own will and created a government and adopted an electoral law without foreign interference.”

“It is a Lebanese phase par excellence that we would like to translate into agreements and a prosperous economy,” the minister also said.

Asked about the government’s plan of action, which was adopted during last week’s consultative meeting in Baabda Palace, Bassil said: “We want to establish a civil state and to consolidate equality between the Lebanese with the aim to abolish political sectarianism.”

The other part of the plan of action focuses on economic reforms, according to Bassil, who underlined that the government was laying much importance on economic issues and the fight against corruption.

He noted in this regard that the president would be closely following up on the implementation of the new national agreement, which would be implemented within the framework of comprehensive institutional work.

The foreign minister warned that those who would seek to hamper the implementation of the agreement would be exposed to the public.

“Confessions cannot protect corrupt people; nobody will protect them,” he stated.

He noted that the paper has set out mechanisms to tackle the issues of electricity, water, and oil.

On the electoral law, the head of the FPM said that the new voting system “has mistakes, which should be corrected.”

“I am committed to the political agreement (over the law), and I call for its amendment, but not during this round (the upcoming elections),” he added.

Bassil rejected claims that the new electoral law was tailored to his party’s own interests, saying: “On the contrary, I sacrificed myself for my colleagues.”

He also stressed that his alliance with the Future Movement would be translated in the elections, without elaborating on how the electoral lists would be formed.

Kurdish Democratic Union Party Chief: Our Forces are Advancing in Raqqa

Muslim

London –The head of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, Saleh Muslim, warned that Syria’s de-escalation zones, in their current formula, would lead to more fighting,.

He noted meanwhile that democratic federalism that is based on geographic factors was the guarantee for the country’s unity.

The tripartite agreement between Russia, Turkey and Iran to establish de-escalation zones would “only delay the conflict for a certain period of time,” he said.

“The current plan does not serve the interests of Syria,” he added.

In a phone interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Muslim stressed that the Syrian people reject the division of their country.

He also said that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which also include the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and other Arab factions, were ready to fight terrorism “at any place and in any time”, adding in this regard that the agreement with Washington has prioritized the fight against ISIS.

Asked about the battle for Raqqa, Muslim said that the liberation of the city was crucial, as it has become a source of all terrorist activities in the Kurdish areas and northern Syria.

“Protecting civilians is the most important issue,” he stated, highlighting the role of the SDF in the progress achieved in the liberation of the ISIS stronghold.

Muslim underlined that each population center in Raqqa was administered and managed by a civil council. The SDF steered clear of residential areas and never tried to influence the council.

Asked about concerns over a Kurdish-Arab conflict and a social cleansing against the Arabs, the Kurdish official replied: “Foreign forces are trying to implement their agendas by instigating conflicts between the Kurds and Arabs; however, we do not see such things on the ground.”

“Arabs and Kurds live together in one house, in one village,” he said, adding that what is seen in the media was different from reality.

Muslim also ruled out any possibility to rebuild an alliance with the Bashar Assad Syrian regime.

On Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, the Kurdish official noted that this was an Iraqi internal affair and that the Iraqi government has acknowledged them as part of its defense institution.

“It is their own affair, it has nothing to do with Syria,” he noted.

“In Syria, we have the SDF; we have Sunnis, Shi’ites and Kurds.”

However, Muslim warned that in case of an attack against Syria, his forces would respond appropriately to defend their areas.

Asked about relations with the United States, he commented: “The US side was truly committed to the SDF, while the Kurdish side was staunchly determined to fight terrorism.”

The result of US-Kurdish cooperation would be seen with the liberation of Raqqa, he elaborated.

On the Gulf crisis with Qatar, in particular the Turkish support to Doha, Muslim said that the deployment of Turkish forces in the Arab peninsula was foreign interference into the Arab countries’ affairs that would harm the Gulf society.

“Turkey is trying to achieve its Ottoman dreams and expand its rule over the region,” he stated.

“The dreams of [Turkish President Recep Tayyib] Erdogan have brought calamities to the Middle East and the region,” he added.

Muslim highlighted the need for Arab and Gulf states to reject any foreign interference in their area.

Comoros’ President: ‘Boycotting Qatar Is a Must, Iran Won’t Be Allowed to Pass its Agenda’

Qatar

Makkah- President of the Comoros Azali Assoumani confirmed that his country stands with Saudi Arabia against all forms of terrorism targeting it no matter from which side.

He said that the Kingdom plays a pivotal role in achieving political and security stability at the regional and international levels; noting that on the bilateral level, both countries have embassies and ambassadors to strengthen the relations.

Regarding the projects between the two countries, Assoumani said that the relationship between the two countries has been governed by a number of agreements in various political, military, economic and defense fields as well as projects and aids implemented by the Kingdom in the Comoros through the Saudi Fund for Development.

He added that there are various projects, including infrastructure, and said that Comoros is looking forward to implementing more cooperation plans between the two countries.

Assoumani stressed that his country will not allow Iran to force its people to become Shi’ites.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat while he was visiting Makkah, the Comorian President said that boycotting Qatar is a must because “we support Saudi Arabia since it is the land of the Two Holy Mosques, it unifies Arab and Gulf parties and plays a significant role in combating terrorism and achieving political, security and economic stability in the region.”

President Azali said that the appointment of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to Prince Mohammed bin Salman to become the crown prince means boosting political and economic stability and security in the Kingdom and its role in the region.

He praised the initiatives and the strategic political and economic visions proposed by Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

On the other hand, Assoumani said that Iran exploited the situation to carry out its Shi’ite agenda in one of the Comorian islands, but he stressed that his country will not allow Iran to pass its agenda in Comoros.

Saudi Energy Minister: Market Fundamentals Are Heading in the Right Direction

Dhahran- Saudi Energy Minister Khaled al-Falih said that the oil market has been showing a growing shift towards the right path, but OPEC agreed oil cuts need time before completely relieving the present glut.

OPEC’s first in eight years initiative on curbing production, which also saw the joining of non-OPEC oil producers, was a joint effort aimed at reducing the market oversupply.

Falih also highlighted that all deal partakers have shown a 100 percent commitment in April and May, and that most short-term market fluxes are considered spontaneous, pointing out that the Kingdom also backs Libya’s oil production agenda.

“It isn’t suitable to weigh in on Libya to slow the pace of its production recovery.”

He said that production levels in Libya and Nigeria are within the range determined when OPEC decided to cut output for the first time since 2008 in Algeria.

“They shouldn’t be considered a threat to the initiative.”

Output rose by 336,000 barrels per day (bpd) in May to 32.14 million barrels per day (bpd) led by a rebound in Nigeria and Libya, OPEC said last week in its monthly report.

In general, medium and long term indicators display an increase in demand for oil byproducts, said Falih in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat in the Saudi eastern city, Dhahran.  

Falih also hoped that Libyans retain a healthy level for natural production which they are entitled to.

OPEC-members Nigeria and Libya were exempted from supply cuts because unrest had curbed their output.

He added that Saudi Arabia is seeking to double on gas production in coming years, balancing the mix of energy production it has. Gas production will enhance economic growth potential while fulfilling environmental conventions.

Falih also discussed future mining sector prospects and non-oil manufacturing.

He pointed out that there are two axes for building a distinctive industrial sector in Saudi Arabia, saying that the future role played by research centers in the country is imperative.

The Chairman of the Board of the oil-giant Saudi Aramco also said that continued efforts for devising new and sophisticated solutions for challenges facing Saudi economy is a major function of these centers.  

The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology is contributing to the Kingdom’s vast potential for a diverse and intellectual economy, added Falih.

When addressing the OPEC-brokered cut deal, Falih said that the initiative to reduce production is a step that has many advantages on several levels. And that what adds to its importance is that it represents the first agreement concluded by OPEC for eight years.

“This agreement came at a time when many analysts and market observers were skeptical about the organization’s ability to play its role. It is not limited to Russia alone, but includes 10 other non-OPEC producer countries.”

The deal ushers in a new era in which OPEC and non-OPEC major oil producers are able to balance markets, which will hopefully develop a sustainable mechanism.

“When we talk about implementing the agreement, we find that the participants’ commitment reached an unprecedented level in the first five months. Reaching a 100 percent in April and May.”

“I visited many partaking countries over the past months, met with my colleagues and continued to communicate regularly with them, and found that they we are all committed to the success of this initiative,” added Falih.

Commenting on crude prices slipping, Falih said “it was not our goal when launching this initiative in Algeria to reach a specific price.”

“Prices are determined by markets driven by many variables beyond the control of producing countries and unpredictable,” he explained.

Most day to day fluxes in the market are automatic reactions to a number of short-term factors such as news headlines, forecasts of production from some sources that may not eventually materialize, Falih further added.

“It is worth distinguishing between these fluctuations and the long-term market fundamentals, which we are trying to influence by controlling production,” the former Aramco CEO said.  

“In my opinion, market fundamentals are going in the right direction, but in light of the large surplus in stockpiles over the past years, the cut needs time to take effect,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“Current expectations indicate the market to rebalance in the fourth quarter of this year taking into account an increase in shale oil production,” he said.

Falih said there was a relatively big draw of around 50 million barrels from floating storage facilities and a drop in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development onshore storage of 65 million barrels compared to July last year. “The market often tends to ignore these criteria and focus on the drop in US inventories that came below expectations.”

Ford to Asharq Al-Awsat: We Gave Syrians False Hope

London- Robert Ford, the last US ambassador to Syria from 2011 to 2014, said that his country gave the Syrian people a “false hope” when US officials offered protesters and demonstrators promises that were not later met.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper from London, Ford said a visit he made to the Syrian city of Hama in June 2011 aimed to identify which side was first inciting violence.

“We received information that Hama was besieged and that the Syrian army surrounded the city. We were worried that violence could erupt during demonstrations staged the next day. I went on a Thursday to witness which party would incite violence,” he said.

His visit also carried a message to the Syrian regime that Washington was taking the matter in Hama very seriously.

However, Ford said that at the time of his visit, his country gave “false hope” to Syrian protesters who were convinced that Washington was going to support them and intervene military, at a time when the US was actually seeking a solution through negotiations. 

“At the end of 2013, I thought that the war would be hard on the regime, which will be forced to negotiate a deal” to form a coalition government with opposition forces and independent figures, the ambassador said.

He added: “My biggest mistake was that I did not expect Iran and Hezbollah to send thousands of fighters in support of (head of the Syrian regime Bashar) Assad.”

Ford, who had left Damascus in 2012, also said that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov deceived his US counterpart John Kerry during the chemical deal forged at the end of 2013, and that he was treating him like a child.

Following a fatal chemical attack in 2013, Syria agreed to destroy its chemical weapons under a deal brokered by Russia and the US when it joined the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. But, questions remained whether Damascus had then declared everything in its chemical weapon program.

Ford also said that Kurds would pay the heavy price for trusting the Americans, adding that the US Army was only using Kurds to fight ISIS. “Washington would not ask the US Army to defend West Kurdistan as an independent district in future Syria,” Ford said.

IMF Senior Official: Eradicating Poverty Is Achievable, Political Will Is a Factor

Sean Nolan, Deputy Director, Strategy, Policy, and Review Department, IMF, Flicker

Washington- The International Monetary Fund recently released a report with an evaluation on social security programs covering the poor and underprivileged in low-income countries, given that that part of the population tends to suffer most from economic reform and austerity measures.

The Washington-based organization said that it provides major support for countries with little sources of income, such as zero interest rates on all fund concessional facilities and extended grace periods.

At least 43 member states have benefited from eased IMF programs that are aimed at tackling worldwide poverty and helping countries achieve a stable and sustainable economy.

Poverty Reduction Strategies (PRS) are central to IMF-supported economic and financial programs in low-income countries. PRS documents assess poverty challenges, describe how macroeconomic, structural, and social policies and programs can promote growth and reduce poverty, and outline external financing needs and the associated sources of financing.

They are prepared by governments in low-income countries generally through a participatory process involving domestic stakeholders and external development partners.

Laying out what are the makings of a good social security program, the report reviews and assesses the means on introducing improvements to effective programs. It also highlights the need for outlining clear economic targets.

For better results, the report recommends cooperation between governments and developing partners to solidifying progress.

The report focuses on low-income countries, which are labeled as such by conditions stipulated by the World Bank, IMF Strategy, Policy and Review Deputy Sean Nolan told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Low-income countries are those with an “average annual income per capita at $ 2,500,” and these rates are registered in “African and Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia, and Bangladesh, as well as some countries in the Middle East, such as Yemen and Sudan.”

People left behind by struggling economies are usually looked out for by social spending and saving programs—social spending, or social security, focuses on providing affordable healthcare and education.

“In some cases, national programs tasked with poverty reduction seek to pump expenditures into social programs because of higher spending generally supported by domestic revenue, grants or debt financing,” said Nolan.

“In other cases, the objective is to protect defenseless groups from negative effects subsequent to fiscal adjustment and economic reform procedures—it is sometimes done through undertaking compensative measures at the policy level to strengthen social security.”

The senior strategist said that the report shows programs endorsed by the IMF in underdeveloped countries to have registered medium-level growth, with success rates for social programs seeing two-thirds of goals being achieved in 90 percent of supported initiatives.

Most IMF programs aim to balance the budget deficit and make sure that it does not step over a certain limit, but that does not necessarily mean a cutback to education and health sectors.

“At least 90 percent of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) programs for low-income countries are aimed at strengthening the education and health sectors,” said Nolan.

As to whether ending poverty being a surmountable hurdle, Nolan sheds light on the multi-lateral action being carried out across the world, saying that “one of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the goals of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is to eradicate poverty by 2030, which also happens to be one of the World Bank’s main objectives.”

“I think the answer is yes. The goal of eradicating poverty can be achieved.”

Although eliminating poverty is not the impossible per se, Nolan focuses on the steps needed to do so- underscoring the need for funds.

“We need to consider the amount of funds needed to achieve this goal across countries. This is not a huge amount, but the challenge is to secure and employ it efficiently– political will plays a major role next to the availability of support and foreign aid.”

Bahrain FM: Qatar Must Distance Itself from Iran

Bahrain Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa speaks during a news conference in Manama, Bahrain

Manama – The efforts led by Emir of Kuwait Shiekh Sabah al-Ahmad to contain the Qatari crisis depend only on the Doha leadership, according to Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid Bin Ahmed al-Khalifa

Khalifa said that Qatar has launched many campaigns against his country, reiterating that the only way for the relations to be restored is if Qatar distances itself from Gulf’s number one enemy: Iran.

He confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that Bahrain’s position in this crisis is in line with that of Saudi Arabia.

When asked about the results of the meeting between the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and King Hamad, Bahrain’s FM said that it was an important meeting like any other with complete agreement and coordination. He added that both leaders agreed that Qatar must change its policies and rectify its path.

Khalifa said that the two Kings agreed that Qatar must commit to the previously signed agreements and any new pledges should have guarantees to ensure they are not violated.

The FM explained that for over 20 years, Qatar had been wrongfully treating Bahrain despite being part of unified identity descending from the same tribes and families. He added that Doha supported and funded people who wanted to sabotage his country.

In 2011, Qatar even supported the events in Bahrain creating more chaos, according to the FM.

Concerning al-Jazeera news channel, Khalifah said that the channel insisted on portraying Bahrainis in the worst possible way.

He added that Bahrain will not stop until things are settled within the Gulf Council.

Regarding the terms set by Gulf Council to end the altercations with Bahrain, the FM said conditions posed by the four countries for a resolution of the crisis were clear.

“Qatar has to redress its path and has to go back to all previous commitments, it has to stop media campaigns and has to distance itself from our number one enemy, Iran,” he said.

“It has to realize its interests are with us, not with another country that conspires against us, wants to dominate and divide us. It has to stop supporting terrorist organizations, Sunni or Shiites, and its policy has to be for the benefit of its people,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

He stressed that Bahrain will not hesitate to protect its interests and the road is open to any options to protect itself from Qatar.

FM Khalifa expressed his appreciation for the Kuwaiti mediation to resolve an Arab row with Qatar.

“The Emir of Kuwait is a messenger of good, but the policies of Qatar have not granted his endeavors success,” he said. He did, however, say that if it failed, Qatar is responsible for not giving Emir of Kuwait the chance to bring everyone together.

“The success of these efforts, its results and what it will achieve all depend on Qatar,” the FM concluded.

Volkswagen Middle East Director: We are Testing Electric Cars in Region

Volkswagen

London – Brand Director for Volkswagen Middle East Andrew Savvas revealed that the company is currently testing in the region a plug-in hybrid version of its Golf GTI.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat that consumer demand for electric vehicles will help remove some of the obstacles in the industry.

“Electric vehicles are coming; The readiness of the region will be determined by consumer demand,” he revealed.

This demand requires the elimination of current obstacles that are standing in the way of these vehicles. They include how fast these cars can be charged over long journeys, their cost and the price of fuel, he explained.

This requires many improvements and government support. The United Arab Emirates and Jordan are currently leading regional efforts in this regard, revealed Savvas.

There are around 100 charging stations throughout the UAE, while Jordan has exempt electric cars from registration fees, customs and the sales tax. The kingdom has also invested in setting up charging points at gas stations, he continued.

“I have no doubt that the obstacles preventing the growth of electric vehicles in the region will be eliminated in due course,” he stressed.

The plug-in hybrid Golf GTE will continue to be tested throughout 2017 and it will not be offered for sale just yet, he said.

“It is our goal to be the global leader in e-mobility” he said, revealing that they aim to sell 1 million e-cars globally by 2025.

Asked about the most popular Volkswagen model in the region, Savvas said that the Golf is a bestseller, representing almost a third of total sales in 2016.

“The Golf has established itself as an iconic people’s car, decades of German engineering has seen every generation of Golf set benchmarks in pure driving pleasure and ownership experience,” he stressed.

Assessing 2016, he said it was a challenging sales year for our brand in a market that was notable for high levels of discounting. For the consumer on the other hand, it was a good year to buy.

Despite the hardships, Volkswagen introduced the new Passat model in the first quarter of the year. In the second quarter, it introduced the Golf GTI Clubsport, the most powerful GTI in the region, he stated.

“We finished the year with the launch of the all-new Tiguan, which has set benchmarks in the compact SUV segment. Many of our dealers quickly sold out following the initial launch allocation. we are therefore very optimistic about 2017 sales,” he remarked.

“We have another challenging year ahead of us, however we are focused on making positive strides ahead with powerful new products and improving our customer services with a focus on digitalisation,” he said.

As for its plans for the Middle East in 2017, Savvas said that the Arteon will be introduced in the Autumn. The summer will witness the unveiling of a special edition Touareg model with bespoke trims, featuring additional value that will directly benefit our customers.

On what distinguishes Volkswagen Group from others, he said: “As a direct result of the Volkswagen Group’s wide portfolio of sports cars, luxury, premium and volume models, the Volkswagen brand is able to develop technology and safety features that ultimately benefit our customer. The Volkswagen brand is premium in the volume segment – which means that we offer technology found in premium models, but at a price point that is comparable with Japanese and Korean brands. Our customers get more for their money, be it safety, materials or horsepower.”

Volkswagen is now the largest carmaker in the world. Asked whether that results in any pressure for them to stay at the top, he replied: “We aspire to be a winning company and a competitive one in regards to big production, while committing to superiority in quality.”

Sudanese FM: No Country will Force us to Act against Egypt’s Interests

Cairo – Sudan’s Foreign Affairs Minister Ibrahim Ghandour underlined the “very special and strategic ties” with Egypt, despite some tensions that surfaced lately between the two countries.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper in Cairo on Sunday, Ghandour said that the two African states have agreed to resolve any issues that could threaten bilateral relations, stressing that no country “could use the Sudanese territories to harm Egypt or even Libya.”

The Sudanese official noted that during his recent meetings with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, an agreement was reached on the need to maintain constant communication between the two countries’ various institutions, in order to overcome any misunderstanding.

Asked whether a third party was trying to spark tensions between Sudan and Egypt, Ghandour said: “All over the world, there are hidden parties that do not wish to see stable relations between countries.”

“There is certainly someone who is seeking to instigate conflicts, but I came here to say that the relations between our two states are sacred and we should avoid distorting them,” he added.

On whether Qatar was using Sudan to harm Egypt, the Sudanese foreign minister said: “I read such claims in the Egyptian media; but in reality this is not true.”

“Sudan’s relations with Egypt do not make room for any interference,” he noted, adding: “We cannot allow any party to push us to harm Egypt’s interests, safety or stability.”

Ghandour said that talks during his meetings have focused on security cooperation in light of the attack on African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur.

He noted that his country was keen on the formation of joint border security forces between Egypt, Sudan and Libya to promote security along the borders and counter the infiltration of terrorist groups.

He highlighted in this regard Sudan’s “successful experience with Chad”, adding that his country would also implement this security strategy with Ethiopia.

On Libya, Ghandour said it was obvious that Egypt supports Army Commander Khalifa Haftar, while Sudan is cooperating with the UN-backed national unity government.

“Consequently, we have agreed with our brothers in Egypt that the Libyan crisis should be resolved by the Libyan people themselves and that there was no alternative for an intra-Libyan dialogue to resolve the current problems,” he stated.

Asked about relations with South Sudan, Ghandour said that the two states were holding regular meetings under the umbrella of the African Union to address security and defense matters.

The foreign minister stressed the need to end the war and achieve peace in South Sudan.

“We are ready to cooperate on all levels,” he stated.