London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Prominent leading member of the ruling National Congress Party [NCP] in Sudan Ibrahim Ghandour says that his party pursues establishing the strongest relations with the South Sudan State.
In an interview conducted by Asharq Al-Awsat from London, Ghandour says that Sudan perhaps might not need to open an embassy in Juba, “because we look forward to establishing (deeper) relations through which we do not need to open embassies.”
Ghandour, who shoulders the responsibility for the political dossier in his ruling party, points out that the political and geographical secession will not affect the strength of the relations between the two peoples of Sudan, and will not separate them.
Ghandour reveals that the “confederate option” is suggested to the ruling partners in Sudan by international sides and research centers. However, Ghandour says: “Perhaps we might choose something deeper and better for the two peoples of Sudan.”
Ghandour reiterates what has been said in Khartoum that the referendum was conducted in an impartial way devoid of violence, and that Khartoum will be the first to recognize its results.”
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Will you accept the result of the referendum?
[Ghandour] First of all, we stress that the referendum took place in an acceptable way devoid of violence, and it sent a clear message to the world from the Sudanese people in the north and in the south saying that the Sudanese are a civilized people who practice democracy in a mature way. Also a similar message was sent by the presidential and legislative elections in April 2010. Our recognition will come after the announcement of the final result, and seeing the reports of all observers. However, we stress that we will respect the choice of people in the south, whatever this choice might be.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What will the shape of relations be?
[Ghandour] We will extend our hand to the newly born state if secession is the choice, which clearly is the more probable outcome. We will work to build a prosperous future for the two peoples. We emphasize what the brother president has said in Juba recently, namely that we have accepted the peace agreement, and we know that one of its options might be secession; however, we said, and we still say that we pursue a higher aim, namely the achievement of peace and security through putting an end to a war that has been continuing since before the independence of Sudan, a war that destroyed the agriculture and the wealth, and prevented development. We have accepted the peace agreement, and we signed it on 9 January 2005; we know that some of its articles perhaps are unacceptable, but we accepted them because we want peace.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Some say that your acceptance of the referendum might be due to international and US pressure?
[Ghandour] I assure you that all the pressure in the world will not make us accept an option that we believe to be harmful to the interests of our country and our people.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Perhaps there is a deal?
[Ghandour] There are no deals. We always look at the options, study them all, and then we choose the best for our country. We have signed an agreement, and hence our political and national option is to adhere to this agreement.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Is it true that you will be the first country to recognize the new state?
[Ghandour] I would like to reiterate what the brother president said, we will be the first state to recognize the new state, and we will congratulate our people in the south if they choose secession. This does not mean that we are happy because a part of our country has been cut off; we are sad. However, we are pleased with ourselves because we have fulfilled what we pledged in Naivasha (The Kenyan city that witnessed the peace negotiations and the peace agreement is called by its name).
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Will you open an embassy there?
[Ghandour] This is premature. We still have to go through a long interim period (six months). We aspire for what is more than an embassy. We aspire for relations through which we might not need to open embassies.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Secession has become a reality. Will this lead to the separation of the two peoples?
[Ghandour] When the people mix together and their blood mixes together, it is difficult to separate them, even if the politicians wanted to do so. The relations between the peoples of the north and south are of that type, as it is extending back into history, especially at the border strip between the two sides. There are blood and family relations, and there are common economic and social interests that are difficult to uproot. We in the NCP look much farther than that, we look at the issue of the borders. Despite the fact that we are in favor of demarcating and identifying them as international borders between two countries, we also aspire for borders which we call “people’s borders” that are determined by the peoples through intermingling and mixing.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] In the sense of borders only on the maps?
[Ghandour] Agreed borders, yes, but they are bypassed for the sake of tribal mixing, as it happens in other parts of Sudan, as it happens in Africa, and even in Europe where the borders have been bypassed.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] There is talk about an international African proposal, conveyed to you be South African President Thabo Mbeki, about a formula for a union between the two Sudanese states?
[Ghandour] There is a great deal of this kind. A number of international study centers and expert houses in this field have presented us with many proposals for cooperation. We have seen, heard, and read many of them. We confirm that we have presented a program in the form of “framework agreement” to define the future relations between the two sides in case of secession.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What are the features of this proposal?
[Ghandour] It includes formulas for economic, political, security, and social relations that sometimes rise to the level of complete coordination. We aspire for relations that start as relations between two neighboring fraternal countries until they reach the level of union between two independent countries. However, all this requires dialog.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Is this also the wish of the other side?
[Ghandour] We are talking about our wish in the north. Everything has its own time.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Have you heard and seen a response from the other side?
[Ghandour] We have not heard anything in this respect.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] [Deputy Leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement] Yasser Arman has said that they are searching for a formula to establish a union between the two countries?
[Ghandour] We have read and heard that. They are discussing the same options, including confederation. However, this has not reached the level of a dialog over a specific framework.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is your wish? Would you accept a confederation if this is proposed by the south?
[Ghandour] We will study any proposals presented to us, and we will choose from them what will achieve the best and strongest relations between the north and the south.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Even if it is a confederation?
[Ghandour] Perhaps there is a stronger option that federalism itself; this we will choose.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you expect such steps on the ground soon?
[Ghandour] We hope so.