Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Gulf banks are set to resume dealings with their Sudanese counterparts following efforts from Gulf finance ministers, but the Arab League will play no role in the process, an official from the organization told Asharq Al-Awsat.
“There are no plans for the Arab League to [help] resume dealings and transactions between Gulf banks and their Sudanese counterparts at this time,” said Mohamed Al-Tuwaijri, the deputy secretary-general of the Arab League’s Economic Affairs unit. He added that such efforts fell outside the Economic Committee’s remit since the issue in question was a strictly banking one, and therefore, he said, the responsibility of the finance ministers of the involved countries.
Several countries around the world, including Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar, banned all transactions with Sudanese banks in February.
The African country recorded negative growth figures in 2013 and has become increasingly cash-strapped as foreign reserves are quickly depleted and its economy reels from decades-long US-led sanctions.
The sanctions have been in place since 1997 and ban any financial dealings with Sudan or Sudanese-owned companies, thereby complicating Sudan’s access to international financial markets and hard currency. Khartoum’s decade-long civil war with secessionists in the country’s southern region, and which ended with South Sudan gaining independence in 2011, has also affected the country’s finances, as well as stunting the development of its infrastructure and institutions.
As a result, and despite Sudan being rich in agricultural lands, livestock, minerals and precious metals like gold, most Western countries have shunned the African state. But a number of other countries, most notably Gulf countries such as Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, have continued to invest in and trade with Sudan. Saudi Arabia is a major destination for Sudanese cattle, while three UAE banks—Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, Sharjah Islamic Bank and Dubai Islamic Bank—are the main shareholders in Sudan’s oldest bank, the Bank of Khartoum.
Tuwaijri said there was currently only one Gulf-based bank, the National Bank of Abu Dhabi, transferring Gulf investments into and out of Sudan.