[Asharq Al-Awsat] Following the visit of Abdul-Wahid Nur to Israel and his readiness to open an Israeli embassy in Khartoum, does the issue of Sudan now go through Israel?
[Minawi] Abdul-Wahid Nur’s visit to Israel did not surprise me or the Sudanese people. He previously visited Israel in January 2008 and opened an office for himself there. But we were surprised that this time he announced his visit on satellite TV stations and by his talk of the presence of a large Sudanese community in Israel. Consequently, the talk about his visit and the statements he made are not really new, they have been in the news for the past 13 months.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] When you and Abdul-Wahid Nur were in the struggle together, were you able to identify his leanings, and is it true that some Jewish organizations recruited him in Paris?
[Minawi] During our work in the armed resistance, we had no relations with Israel or any other state apart from Eritrea. But today, Israel is giving prominence to its relations with Abdul-Wahid Nur.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Is it true that Abdul-Wahid Nur is an obstacle to peace in Sudan?
[Minawi] It was wrong of Nur to boycott the dialogue and the attempts to find a peaceful solution to the Darfur crisis. He was also wrong in rejecting the consultations for peace; I think he should be held responsible for that.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Does Nur have the following in Darfur that warrants giving him all this importance, or is he getting support from outside?
[Minawi] He does not live in Darfur to be popular there; but many people like him because he singles himself as the odd one out, as well as because of his political opposition and extremist views. But in the final analysis he has no following. At times he is in the news, and a ‘loud voice’ is what matters to him.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Are the steps he has taken toward Israel infectious, in the sense that they would encourage other organizations to do the same, tempted by Israeli political and material support?
[Minawi] First of all, I do not expect Israel to give any assistance to Abdul-Wahid Nur. Israel is not stupid enough to give support to a man who stays at seven-star hotels in Paris and Europe, has no contacts in Sudan, even with his relatives, and rejects every initiative for a solution. Therefore, the issue is basically finished, and I regard his visit to Israel as a personal initiative and as being the equivalent of political asylum in Israel, but he is exploiting it politically.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] In your capacity as senior aide to the president, what role can you play in the Darfur peace process?
[Minawi] My role in the peace for Darfur? If asked, I shall put it on the table at ‘the peace kitchen’. I have many ideas that will contribute to building peace in Darfur.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Could you tell us about your role in this respect?
[Minawi] My role is continuing through dialogue with organizations and the exchange of ideas, alternatives, and recommendations; using our experience with armed organizations, the people and the general situation. But I prefer not to talk about my role and I do not want to talk in public about our differences, to the people or to the media.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What alternatives and recommendations are you referring to? You have participated in the Kinanah conference, (which was held in Sudan last year). How do you view the initiatives that were proposed, but so far have not been able to achieve peace in Darfur? What exactly is the problem?
[Minawi] The Kinanah conference and all initiatives are important; but there is another facet to all initiatives, which is implementation. In Sirt [Libya], the efforts fell somewhat short at the time, although the issues dealt with were more comprehensive than at the Doha conference. The Doha conference was devoted to one person, Ibrahim Khalil, (leader of the Justice and Equality Movement). So the conference was focused on ‘one table and one chair’.
As for the claim that the Doha conference was open to all parties – that was what the media said, but the reality was something else. For this claim to be convincing there should have been prior consultations, or dialogue about the initiatives, with all the organizations concerned. After that you call them for a conference. Then the conference could be described as open to all parties.
Instead, it was noticeable, that from August [ 2008] until the date the conference was held in Doha, our Qatari brothers and the international African mediator Gabriel Basole, were moving to and from between Anjamina and Doha, and then between Anjamina, Doha and Paris. Therefore the thinking was focused on one particular person – Ibrahim Khalil.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] The Doha conference was convened within the framework of the Arab package solution to implement the Afro-Arab proposals and also to adopt the Kinanah proposals and include all organizations. In your view, is there going to be a similar conference in Doha that might lead to a solution?
[Minawi] I do not know what is going to happen. But first, the People of Sudan initiative recommended a full and comprehensive peace. Second, at the Doha conference there was an international representation at a level conducive to permanent peace in Darfur. What may happen later on, I do not know.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What were your recommendations at the conference of the Al-Kinanah people?
[Minawi] All the consultations and dialogues were good; the problem is that some of them were taken and some left out.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Your position toward the Doha conference is unclear; which side are you on?
[Minawi] I am with the Sudan Liberation Movement, but I am not against the Doha conference. I am with any attempt to achieve peace, but at the same time I am against the Doha conference because it was dedicated exclusively to Ibrahim Khalil, who cannot bring peace to Darfur on his own.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] After meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, you mentioned that you asked the President to take a solid stance on Darfur, in order to reach a solution. What did you mean by that? Did you mean that he should take such a stance towards President Al-Bashir?
[Minawi] I was referring to the Egyptian role in Darfur and Sudan, preparing for the dialogue and achieving national unity. That is the natural role that God has given to Egypt and the neighboring countries. I am proposing a bigger role for Egypt, from the standpoint of what the two countries have in common. Moreover, I have not heard of any Egyptian objection to the Qatari role in Darfur. Everything I heard from them about Qatar, during our meetings, was very positive. But Cairo’s concern is that the peace in Darfur should be full and comprehensive, so that no organization is left out to cause problems.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What about the intra-Darfur dialogue?
[Minawi] This proposal was initially made by the Sudan Liberation Movement. It was included in the Abuja agreement and we continue to adhere to it; but this dialogue needs a clear, calm and healthy atmosphere, especially from a security point of view. Accordingly, we have stressed the importance and review of all agreements, whether with a view to implementation or to others joining in. All such things are preparatory to a dialogue.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Why do not you start with the preparations you are talking about and make them part of your contribution to peace-making in Darfur?
[Minawi] I am actually doing so, and there are contacts and dialogues going on in Darfur; but I do not want to talk about these things to the media. We have work to do and we are playing a role that has produced very good results in Darfur.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What about the security and humanitarian situation in Darfur? Has the Arab League fulfilled its promises with regard to development in Darfur?
[Minawi] The humanitarian and security situation is better now and allows for development; it does not obstruct it. But we have not received anything from the Arab states apart from Egypt. When I met with the Egyptian minister for international cooperation, we reviewed all the obligations which Egypt had undertaken. I found that all had been fulfilled, and I hope that others will do the same with regard to their obligations toward Sudan.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you think that the Darfur crisis started as a local issue, but ended up as an international one?
[Minawi] The conflict with the West started after the crisis, and the different roles appeared after the proposed solutions. We hope all international efforts will be in the direction of a solution.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] The Sudanese Government has announced the year 2009 as the year of peace in Darfur. Is this date practicable?
[Minawi] We hope so; but the solution depends on the organizations as well as the government.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] How would the Darfur crisis end in your view, especially as whenever an agreement is reached, more organizations come up demanding the same rights, and thus the crisis continues to revolve in circles and repeat itself?
[Minawi] The Sudanese Government is not blameless as far as implementation and serious dialogue are concerned, and it is not blameless when it comes to solving the problem. This is why I always concentrate on the need for an internal solution.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Is the issue of imposing sanctions on the party that does not commit itself to peace still on the table?
[Minawi] Any sanctions imposed on any party are a disservice to peace. Moreover, it is not easy to impose sanctions on organizations in Darfur.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Have the Arab League and the African Union failed to support peace in Darfur?
[Minawi] The entire world has failed. We cannot single out the Arab League and the African Union.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is required of the Arab League?
[Minawi] The role of the Arab League is very important for development in Darfur.