Sudan remains open to naval base deal with Russia

PHOTO from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation website

Sudan has no objection to the deployment of a Russian naval base on Sudanese territory but only if it does not threaten national security, said Deputy Chairman of the Supreme (Sovereign) Council of the country Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo (Hemedti), returning from Moscow. His meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov took place the day the military operation in Ukraine began, on February 24.

Al-Monitor notes that Khartoum remains open to the possibility of moving forward with a paused deal to allow Russia to establish a naval base on the Red Sea. “We have 730 kilometers along the Red Sea. If any country wants to open a base and it is in our interests and doesn't threaten our national security, we have no problem in dealing with anyone, Russian or otherwise”, Hemedti said.

A top Sudanese general's weeklong visit to Moscow has raised the stakes for US officials pushing for "democracy" in Khartoum. Following a meeting with Russia’s deputy defense chief, Hemedti was quoted as saying Sudan boasts “enormous potential which present great opportunity for Russian investments in order to achieve mutual benefits for both countries.”

“Hemedti is starting a bidding war,” tweeted Cameron Hudson, a former top aide to the US envoy to Sudan who now serves as a fellow at the Atlantic Council.

The original basing deal — signed in 2017 under the deposed Omar al-Bashir government — would allow Russia’s navy to establish a 25-year lease on a site at Port Sudan. The arrangement was put on hold last June by the joint civilian-military transitional government in Khartoum, which came to power following Bashir’s overthrow in a nationwide pro-democracy uprising in 2019. But the joint civilian-military transitional government was deposed by top Sudanese generals last October, leading the United States and other international institutions to freeze billions in economic aid to Khartoum.

Hemedti’s visit to Moscow has American officials concerned about Sudan’s increasing ties with Moscow. Last year, the top general Townsend told lawmakers the Port Sudan base was among his list of strategic concerns on the continent, along with Russia’s foothold in Libya and China’s base in Djibouti.

Since the coup, the Biden administration has demanded the reinstatement of a civilian-led government in Sudan while exploring options on potential sanctions for top Sudanese military and police officials.

Washington has held off on sanctions so far, but officials have arranged for much of the $700 million in US financial aid withheld from Khartoum to be redirected to support Sudanese civil society groups, pro-democracy activist committees and the UN-led political dialogue process instead, according to one official familiar with the matter.

ФОТО PHOTO from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation website