Can China help to end the fighting in Sudan?

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Sudanese citizens displaced from their homes by the raging war dig small holes at the shore to get potable water at the banks of the White Nile in Khartoum on May 6, 2023. (REUTERS)
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People salvage items from a medical storage destroyed amid fighting in Nyala, the capital of Sudan's province of South Darfur on May 2, 2023. (AFP)
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Sudanese refugee women, who fled the violence in their country build makeshift shelters while waiting to be placed in refugees camp near the border between Sudan and Chad in Koufroun, Chad, on May 6, 2023. (REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra)
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Smoke billows amid persistent fighting in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, on May 4, 2023, despite extended truce agreements between the warring groups. (AFP)
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Chinese citizens evacuated from Sudan display their country's banners as they arrive at King Faisal navy base in Jeddah on April 26, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 07 May 2023

Can China help to end the fighting in Sudan?

  • Diplomatic track record suggests Beijing well placed to broker peace between the feuding Sudanese generals
  • Long history of trade engagement with Sudan gives China political and economic influence that West lacks

JUBA, South Sudan: The crisis in Sudan, which began when clashes broke out between Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan’s Sudanese Armed Forces and Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo’s Rapid Support Forces on April 15, has claimed more than 500 lives and displaced nearly 300,000 people over a span of just three weeks.

As Sudan’s neighbors, Arab and Middle Eastern countries, and Western powers make fervent pleas for an end to the fighting, many analysts say the Sudanese are actually looking to the East for a resolution.

China has acted as a mediator in several Middle Eastern rapprochement efforts, notably brokering the restoration of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran in early April and encouraging the push for reconciliation between the Syrian regime and Arab countries.

Its recent diplomatic track record, experts say, suggests China is ideally positioned to play the role of a peace broker in the Sudanese conflict as well.


$2.03bn China’s exports to Sudan during 2022

$780m Sudan’s exports to China in 2021

$17m Value of China-Sudan economic and technology agreements signed in 2022

“China has more influence on Sudan than the West and regional bodies, and could work with countries of the Arab League to solve the conflict before it escalates,” Manasseh Zindo, a South Sudanese peacemaker and a former delegate to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development-led peace process, told Arab News.

According to Zindo, while Western countries have tended to impose sanctions on Sudan, China has done business with the country’s leaders, giving it a unique opportunity to help end the conflict between the military and the RSF.

“Sudanese leaders do not have much faith in the West and would be more comfortable with mediation championed by China,” he said.



Indeed, the general consensus is that China’s longstanding economic ties with Sudan, which date back to the late 1950s, give it a vested interest in brokering a deal to end the current fighting and pushing for a lasting solution to the crisis.

Over the years, China has emerged as one of Sudan’s largest trading partners, the result of investing heavily in the country’s oil industry and buying up part of the output too.

In recent years, China has expanded its investments to sectors beyond oil, such as infrastructure, mining and agriculture. It has also helped Sudan tap its hydroelectric power potential, notably by financing the construction of the Merowe Dam on the Nile River.

In the area of infrastructure, China has helped to build several major projects in Sudan, including the Khartoum International Airport, the Friendship Hall in Khartoum, and the Roseires Dam on the Blue Nile River.

This picture taken on September 15, 2022 shows a view of a building of China's National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) near the Nile river waterfront in Sudan's capital Khartoum. (AFP)

Taken together, these projects have given a boost to Sudan’s transportation and energy infrastructure, contributing to the country’s economic development.

By the same token, China’s web of investments in Sudan would be at great risk were the current fighting to turn into a protracted conflict and exact a heavy economic toll.

“Disruption of production in the country could have serious consequences not just for Sudan and South Sudan, but also to some extent for China,” Augustino Ting Mayai, research director at the Sudd Institute in South Sudan’s Juba, told Arab News.

Since the eruption of violence in Sudan last month, the UN, the African Union and several regional blocs have repeatedly appealed for calm, proposing ceasefires and dialogue. So far, however, the outcomes have not been encouraging, with mere minutes passing between the implementation of a truce and the resumption of airstrikes and small-arms fire.

The two feuding Sudanese factions, who each blame one another for the multiple broken ceasefires, are actually former allies. After the removal of dictator Omar Al-Bashir in 2019, a joint transitional military-civilian government was established, led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.

Sudanese Army soldiers walk near tanks stationed on a street in southern Khartoum on May 6, 2023, amid ongoing fighting against the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces. (AFP)

In just two years’ time, Al-Burhan and Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, closed ranks to overthrow Hamdok. Efforts to coax Sudan back toward a civilian-led government began anew, but disputes over the integration of Dagalo’s RSF into the SAF led to tensions, which evidently reached a flashpoint when explosions and gunfire began to rock Khartoum and other cities on April 15.

“The collapse of Sudan could lead to more violence across the region fueled by the spread of weapons, such as in Libya and Somalia,” Kai Xue, a Beijing-based Africa expert, told Arab News.

Libya, which shares its southeastern border with Sudan, and Somalia, on the Horn of Africa, are two examples of how protracted civil conflicts can plunge African nations into vicious cycles of violence with damaging global consequences.

Sudanese paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) gather near the presidential palace in Khartoum on May 1, 2023. (Screen grab from RSF video/ESN/AFP

In Libya, the fall of former dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011 led to the rapid spread of small arms and light weapons throughout the country, which is now home to a large number of warring groups engaged in an unending power struggle.

The unchecked proliferation of arms, ammunition and explosives not only fuels the conflict in Libya but also has a destabilizing effect on the entire region. Neighboring countries, such as Chad, Niger and Sudan, have struggled to stem the misuse, accumulation and illicit transfer of small arms and light weapons across their borders.

The civil war, followed by state collapse and the emergence of armed groups, in Somalia has had a similar effect on nearby countries. The diversion and illicit trade of small arms and light weapons has been a major driver of the Somali conflict, which continues to this day.

The smuggling and transfer of weapons and explosives from Somalia have also had a significant impact on neighboring countries, such as Kenya and Ethiopia. The terrorist group Al-Shabaab, which has links with Al-Qaeda, has launched deadly attacks in both countries using weapons smuggled in from Somalia.

Africa analysts say if Somalia and Libya hold any lesson, it is that the conflict in Sudan potentially has serious implications not just for the future of the country but for that of the wider region too.

Sudanese refugees, who fled the violence in their country stand beside makeshift shelters near the border between Sudan and Chad in Koufroun, Chad, on May 6, 2023. (REUTERS)

The UN has warned of an impending humanitarian catastrophe as a result of the fighting, saying that 800,000 people are expected to flee the country. Compounding the crisis is the fact that Sudan itself is already home to more than 1 million refugees and 3 million internally displaced persons.

Sudan’s impoverished neighbors also already host large refugee populations and have been plagued for years by political and economic instability as well as natural disasters such as flash floods and drought.

“It is good that everybody is calling for peace, but there is almost a traffic jam of peacemaking when everyone wants to get involved,” Tibor Nagy, a former US ambassador to Ethiopia, told Arab News.

He expressed regret that the US did not provide more support for Sudan’s transition to civilian rule.



“I think if the US had been quicker, then maybe Prime Minister (Hamdok) would not have been overthrown,” Nagy said. “Yet, at the end of the day, the fault lies with General Al-Burhan and Hemedti, as it is now clear that neither one of them wanted a real civilian-led government.”

As for China, Nagy said the country “tends to issue good statements when there is a flare-up like the current conflict in Sudan, but it tends to stay back and wait for others to make peace, as we saw in the case of Ethiopia’s recent civil war,” Nagy said.

Under the circumstances, China’s involvement in the Sudan feud is likely to be passive, according to Benjamin Barton, of the University of Nottingham, Malaysia. Citing the scale of the crisis and the size of Sudan, he said China will wait for the violence to ebb before getting involved.

“It’s all really dependent on the warring parties,” he told Arab News. “Sometimes these conflict situations go way beyond China’s ability to intervene.”



The once laudable Western goal of seeing a civilian-led government formed to steer Sudan’s transition to a democratic dispensation seems far-fetched now. So, some in Africa hope that given its political clout and economic influence, China can at least have a mitigating effect on the current tensions.

“China could use its diplomatic channels to bring both sides of the conflict to the table,” Onyando Kakoba, secretary-general of the Forum of Parliaments of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, told Arab News, adding: “It should avoid taking sides, which could escalate the crisis.”

His view is seconded by Deng Dau Deng Malek, the acting minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation of South Sudan, who told Arab News: “Pressure must be exerted by all international partners (to end the fighting in Sudan), including China.”

Yemen to execute 4 for kidnapping aid workers

Updated 9 sec ago

Yemen to execute 4 for kidnapping aid workers

  • During the past three years, AQAP, and other armed groups, have killed and kidnapped a number of international charity workers across the country
  • Yemenia, the country’s national airline, has announced the resumption of flights from Sanaa airport to Amman

AL-MUKALLA: A court in Yemen’s southeastern province of Hadramout on Tuesday sentenced four Yemenis to death for kidnapping international humanitarian workers last year. 

The Specialized Criminal Court of First Instance for Terrorism and State Security in the port city of Al-Mukalla, Hadramout’s capital, charged Mohammed Ali Al-Harethi, Ali Ghaled Al-Salehi, Abdul Rahman Ali Al-Salehi and Shehab Abdullah Al-Salehi with kidnapping two employees of the international humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders, or MSF, and ordering their execution by firing squad or beheading.

Five others were absolved in the same case.

In March 2022, armed men believed to be Al-Qaeda militants intercepted a vehicle transporting a German and a Mexican in the Hadramout province between Al-Aber and Al-Khasha. 

Six months later, the captors were apprehended, and Yemeni security forces raided their hideout and freed the two hostages.

During the past three years, the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, and other armed groups have killed and kidnapped a number of international charity workers across the country. 

In August, MSF said that two of its foreign employees had been kidnapped in the central province of Marib, not far from where their colleagues had been kidnapped in 2022. 

The organization’s Yemen office refused to share with Arab News any information on the situation of the two workers or the identity of the abductors, saying it is “still working on the safe return of colleagues.”

Armed men on a motorcycle assassinated a UN food program employee in the southern city of Taiz in July, prompting the UN agency to suspend operations in the besieged city and increase security around its employees.

Meanwhile, Yemenia, the country’s national airline, has announced the resumption of flights from Sanaa airport to Amman, days after suspending the only commercial operations from the capital due to Houthi restrictions on the company’s access to its bank accounts. 

The company said it would resume its near-daily flights between Sanaa and Amman on Friday, without explaining how it resolved the dispute with the Houthis.

Yemenia recently announced that it will suspend flights between Sanaa and Amman in protest at the Houthi refusal to allow the airline to withdraw funds from its accounts in Houthi-controlled banks.

The Houthis responded by stopping a Yemenia plane from taking off from Sanaa airport, alleging that they blocked the company from withdrawing large amounts of money from its accounts over corruption concerns.

Turkiye says Ankara attack assailants trained in Syria

Updated 47 min 17 sec ago

Turkiye says Ankara attack assailants trained in Syria

  • Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said Turkiye now reserved the right to strike a broader range of Kurdish targets in both Syria and Iraq
  • Turkish police shot dead one of the assailants while the other died in an apparent suicide blast

ISTANBUL: Turkiye said on Wednesday that two suspected Kurdish militants who died while staging a weekend attack in Ankara had been trained in Syria.
Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said Turkiye now reserved the right to strike a broader range of Kurdish targets in both Syria and Iraq in retaliation for Sunday’s attack.
Turkish police shot dead one of the assailants while the other died in an apparent suicide blast outside Turkiye’s interior ministry.
Two policemen were injured in the incident.
“As a result of the work of our security forces, it has become clear that the two terrorists came from Syria and were trained there,” Fidan said in televised comments.
“From now on, all infrastructure, large facilities and energy facilities belonging to (armed Kurdish groups) in Iraq and Syria are legitimate targets for our security forces.”
A branch of the Kurdish PKK militia — listed as a terror group by Turkiye and its Western allies — claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attack, the first in Ankara since 2016.
Turkiye conducted air raids against PKK targets in Iraq hours later.
Fidan’s comments suggest that Turkiye could expand its air strikes to include war-torn Syria.
Syria’s Kurds have carved out a semi-autonomous area in the country’s north and east.
US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) — the Kurds’ de facto army in the area — led the battle that dislodged Daesh group fighters from the last scraps of their Syrian territory in 2019.
But Turkiye views the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) that dominate the SDF as an offshoot of the PKK.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly threatened to expand attacks against the YPG.

Gaza unrest sends message about economic misery under Israeli blockade

Updated 04 October 2023

Gaza unrest sends message about economic misery under Israeli blockade

  • Some 2.3 million people live in the narrow coastal strip, where per capita income is around a quarter the level in the Israeli-occupied West Bank
  • In the recent unrest, youths hurling stones and improvised explosive devices faced off against Israeli troops along the border fence

GAZA: Weeks of violent protests by young men in Gaza have sent a message about the dire financial squeeze in the Israeli-blockaded enclave, economists and even some senior Israeli officials believe, and relief measures may be in the offing.
Ostensibly the protests, organized by youth groups but backed by Gaza’s ruling movement Hamas, were about the treatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and visits by Jewish groups to the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, a site holy to both Muslims and Jews, who know it as the Temple Mount.
But a senior Israeli official noted the relative restraint by Hamas, which did not officially join the protests itself or launch more rockets at Israel. He suggested the more immediate reason for the unrest was less long-time grievances related to the Palestinian national cause and more Gaza’s economic misery.
“The protests are about money,” said the Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the topic’s sensitivity. “What we’re seeing on the (border) fence is a message. They are asking for financial help.”
Some 2.3 million people live in the narrow coastal strip, where per capita income is around a quarter the level in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and where over half the population lives below the poverty line, according to IMF estimates.
In the recent unrest, youths hurling stones and improvised explosive devices faced off against Israeli troops along the border fence who responded with live fire before calm was restored last week by Egyptian, UN and Qatari negotiators.
Sources close to the mediation said while some of Hamas’s demands are political, relaxing economic sanctions against Gaza is key to at least maintaining calm along the frontier.
The sources expect Israel, which along with Egypt maintains a tight blockade of the Gaza Strip that has helped cripple its economy, to announce further easings in coming days, including hundreds more permits for work in Israel.
Since 2021, when it fought a 10-day war with Hamas, Israel has softened some curbs on Gaza, offering thousands of work permits as well as measures to facilitate exports and improve its dilapidated utilities after years of underinvestment.

A recent International Monetary Fund report said that for any stable long-term economic recovery in Gaza, “lifting of the blockade and easing of the Israeli-imposed restrictions are essential.”
It noted that Gaza had lagged far behind the West Bank over the past 15 years, mainly due to the years of isolation and repeated conflict after Hamas came to power in 2007, with 77 percent of households receiving aid, mainly cash or food.
With an official unemployment rate in Gaza of over 46 percent, Hamas itself has faced rumbling discontent over its economic management although for its part, the movement blames the Israeli blockade for the enclave’s economic woes.
“If there’s to be an explosion, let it be against the party that created these conditions, which is the (Israeli) occupation,” said senior Hamas official Bassem Naim.
Hamas leaders say any calm in Gaza will remain fragile unless Israel lifts the blockade and ends “aggressive measures and assaults in the West Bank and Jerusalem,” but they signal no interest in a new war.
Aware of the potential for worsening instability in Gaza, Israel has issued over 18,000 work permits to Palestinians there, which has allowed workers to bring in some $2 million a day and offered other forms of economic relief.
“The permit is everything for me, it is my life. If permits stop I will stop,” said Bilal Al-Najar, who took in 30-35 shekels ($7.70-$9.05) a day as a vegetable vendor in Gaza before earning 10 times more working in a restaurant in the southern Israeli city of Lod.
Gaza’s clothing sector, one of the main beneficiaries of any moderation of the blockade, has seen sales rise 10-fold since 2015, the year after an earlier war, and this year revenues look set to top the $22 million generated in 2022.
“If crossings are open, and the political situation is good this makes things in Gaza fit for a bigger revival both for work and for living,” said Bashir Al-Bawab, CEO of Unipal Company, one of Gaza’s largest clothing factories that have partnerships with Israeli companies.
But while Israel has offered economic incentives to avoid conflict, they are always liable to being cut off abruptly, exposing companies like Unipal, which exports 150,000 items a month to Israel, to constant uncertainty.
Last month, Israel imposed a brief blockade on exports from Gaza after inspectors said they uncovered an attempt to smuggle explosives into the West Bank. It then followed up by closing crossing points used by workers going to their jobs in Israel and the West Bank in response to the border protests. ($1 = 3.8675 shekels)

UAE, Brazil FMs discuss strengthening strategic partnership

Updated 04 October 2023

UAE, Brazil FMs discuss strengthening strategic partnership

  • Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan met with Mauro Vieira in Brasilia on Tuesday
  • Emirati president invited to Brazil in 2024 to celebrate 50 years of diplomatic ties

SAO PAULO: Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan met with his Brazilian counterpart Mauro Vieira in Brasilia on Tuesday.

They reviewed bilateral relations and expressed a desire to strengthen the strategic partnership between the UAE and Brazil in areas such as trade, investment, energy, defense, food security, agriculture, science, technology, tourism, culture and space cooperation.

They also discussed cooperation to promote sustainable development and to combat climate change, since the UAE and Brazil are hosting UN climate change conferences this year and in 2025 respectively.

Brazil has welcomed the UAE’s inclusion in BRICS and reaffirmed the bloc’s commitment to a more balanced world economic order, as well as the need for reforms in global governance.

Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE will become permanent members of BRICS from Jan. 1, 2024.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva visited the UAE in April. Emirati President Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan has been invited to visit Brazil in 2024 to celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The UAE foreign minister has visited Barbados, Guyana, Paraguay and Chile for talks with counterparts about cooperation and climate action.

Israeli police arrest five for hostile gestures toward Christians

Updated 04 October 2023

Israeli police arrest five for hostile gestures toward Christians

  • Members of the area’s small Christian community have said they have faced growing harassment and intimidation from Jewish ultranationalists

JERUSALEM: Israeli police on Wednesday arrested five people suspected of spitting toward Christians or churches in the Old City of Jerusalem and formed a special investigative team to deal with growing complaints of hostile gestures against Christians.
“Unfortunately, we witness the continued disgraceful acts of hatred toward Christians in the Old City of Jerusalem, primarily through spitting by extremists,” said Jerusalem District Commander Doron Turgeman.
No details were provided on the identities of the people who were arrested.

Members of the area’s small Christian community have said they have faced growing harassment and intimidation from Jewish ultranationalists, particularly since Netanyahu’s hard-right government took office late last year.
Wednesday’s arrests came as the city prepared for its annual Jerusalem March, an event that usually draws huge crowds, including thousands of Christian pilgrims.
Israeli media published video footage in the Old City this week showing Orthodox Jews, including small children, apparently spitting on the ground as they passed a group of foreign Christian pilgrims.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the incident, promising to take “immediate and decisive action.”
“Israel is totally committed to safeguard the sacred right of worship and pilgrimage to the holy sites of all faiths,” he said in a message on the social messaging platform X.
The Old City’s patchwork of narrow alleys surround some of the holiest sites for Jews, Christians and Muslims, and the local communities have long developed ways of living together despite regular spikes in tension, especially around religious and national holidays.
Turgeman said police would use security cameras, patrols and Internet monitoring to fight the phenomenon both in real time and in hindsight, as well as to possibly start imposing special “administrative fines.”