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Cablegate: Media Reaction: What's Next for U.S.-Sudan Talks?

R 051426Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 0976
INFO DARFUR COLLECTIVE
CJTF HOA
IGAD COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 000846


STATE FOR AF/SPG, AF/PD, S/CRS, IIP/G/AF, RRU-AF, AF SE WILLIAMSON
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN
NSC FOR PITTMAN AND HUDSON

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL KPAO OIIP SU
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION: WHAT'S NEXT FOR U.S.-SUDAN TALKS?

1. Several local newspaper commentators added their voices to the
debate surrounding the U.S. role in trying to help the Sudanese
political class resolve the country's internal conflicts - Darfur
and the North/South dispute over the oil-rich Abyei region.
Meanwhile, the local press increasingly turned its attention to the
visit of a UN Security Council delegation, which arrived in Khartoum
this week to hold discussions with officials about Darfur and the
implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). There
was also considerable reporting and commentary on the appointment of
a new AU/UN mediator for the Darfur conflict.

Normalizing relations a "mirage"
--------------------------------

2. The pro-government "Sudan Vision" published a column by Alfatih
Ziada, entitled "Clarifying the Obvious," in which the author
disparaged U.S. Special Envoy Richard Williamson for saying that he
did not want to be part of a peace treaty on paper without tangible
results on the ground. Addressing himself to the Special Envoy,
Ziada said Sudan needs "no American participation in implementation
of the CPA, since your goal is to wedge a peg between the CPA
signatories. Resolution of Abyei conflict is part of Sudan
Constitution, so why shall we negotiate an issue already agreed
upon?" Asserting that what the U.S. really wants is "regime
change," Ziada added, "We quite understand that the American
Christian Right and the Jewish lobby largely influence the American
decision-making process." He concluded that the U.S. cannot
normalize relations with Sudan until it "fends off pressures by
these parties." U.S. foreign policy, Ziada said, "lacks candor,
justice, frankness, sincerity of expressions, openness, freedom from
prejudice, impartiality and fairness. Normalizing relations with
American is [a] mirage."

Why all the concessions?
------------------------

3. The pro-government and anti-U.S. "Al-Wifaq" took the Government
of Sudan (GOS) to task for being too flexible with Williamson. It
questioned why Sudan should extend friendly hands to the U.S.
knowing that the U.S. would "bite them." The daily was incensed
that the GOS sat idly by while Williamson "accused a Sudanese tribe
of looting and ruining their hometown." The GOS should have at
least refuted the Special Envoy's statement, the editorial said.
"Al-Wifaq" recalled that Williamson had previously characterized the
GOS as a "fox" and "elusive," so in the newspaper's opinion, the GOS
did not deserve to sit and meet with him. The daily further noted
that President Omar El-Bashir had announced a week earlier that the
talks about normalization would not succeed, yet the GOS entered
into a dialogue with the U.S. "Why all these concessions?" the
newspaper asked.

4. Kamal Bakheit, editor-in-chief of the pro-government "Al-Rai
Al-Aam," portrayed the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) as
being very capable of producing crisis after crisis, including
Abyei. He also accused the U.S. of not being neutral and of
insisting that the GOS respond to all of the SPLM's demands.
Bakheit called on the SPLM leadership to "think about the future of
their country" without taking the U.S. agenda into consideration,
and he urged the NCP and SPLM to resolve the Abyei problem as
partners. He asserted that the GOS has "proved its flexibility
through declaring its readiness to resume talks whenever the U.S.
side decides."

GOS should have implemented CPA
-------------------------------

5. Faiez Al-Sheikh Al-Selek, a columnist with the Sudan People's
Liberation Movement-backed daily "Ajrass Al-Hurrya" ("Freedom
Bells"), argued that the GOS should have implemented the CPA instead
of pursuing normalization talks with Washington. "Having the
political will power to fulfill the requirements of peace, working
for self-reconciliation, and strengthening ties of partnership and
normalization with the Sudanese people are more useful," the author
maintained.

No alternative to dialogue with the U.S.
----------------------------------------

6. The independent "Al-Watan" published a commentary by Mohamed
Hamid Al-Hamari in which he maintained that "there is no alternative
to Sudanese-U.S. dialogue and understanding even though the U.S.
links relations, understanding, and major common interests in our
country to internal positions and controversial issues connected to
the influential lobbies in addition to Zionist pressure groups."
The author continued, "In spite of the black cloud, we reiterate
that we sense that Washington has started seriously to alter the
method of its thinking and is looking after its strategic interests,
which are represented in a good relationship with Sudan, one of its
influential regional pillars."

Sudan's future "gloomy"
-----------------------

7. The editorial in the independent South-oriented daily "Khartoum
Monitor" offered a gloomy outlook for Sudan. The "tomorrow that
never comes is the ongoing story of Abyei," the editorial began,
referring to Shakespeare's "Macbeth." "The chance for a true
process of nation building looks remote at this moment simply
because the differences are steep." The U.S., the editorial
continued, "should in such situations understand the facts as they
are on the ground; it should not inherit the British-African dead
policies. The British political history in Africa is tragic and
painful. The Northern elites condemned it because according to them
it prevented them from conquering Southern Sudan. The Southern
elites condemned it because it made them subjects to the subsequent
governments that inherited their power in the Sudan."

Darfur and the international community
--------------------------------------

8. The pro-government "Sudan Vision" editorial on June 5, entitled
"Can the New Mediator Deliver," was skeptical about the ability of a
new AU/UN mediator to make inroads on the Darfur conflict. The
editorial credited Salim Ahmed Salim and Jan Eliasson, respectively
the AU and UN special envoys to Sudan, for sparing "no effort to
pave the way for peace talks that will end the conflict in Darfur."
However, their efforts were blocked by rebel intransigence, the
editorial asserted. "Unless these parties stand behind the new
mediator, he, too, would be unable to carry out his mission."

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