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Abbas Hugs War Criminal President of Sudan, Aims to “Restrain Israeli Movements” in Africa

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is coordinating with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted for war crimes, in order to “restrain Israeli movements” in the African continent, the PA’s foreign minister said on Wednesday. The International Criminal Court has charged al-Bashir with war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in Darfur, where he is accused of seeking to exterminate three non-Arab ethnic groups.

“President Mahmoud Abbas and his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir discussed developing a strategy for the African continent and coordinating to restrain Israeli attempts to make a breakthrough in Africa,” Riyad al-Maliki told reporters in Khartoum.

Abbas kicked off his three-day visit to Sudan on Tuesday, embracing al-Bashir upon his arrival and signing a number of bilateral agreements — including one to create a mechanism for consultation between the PA and Sudan.

In a Facebook post published after their meeting, Abbas extended his support to the Sudanese government and expressed “solidarity with Sudan against unjust economic sanction [sic].”

On Wednesday, the Palestinian premier laid the cornerstone for a PA embassy in Sudan. He also briefed Sudanese officials on the French initiative for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and discussed efforts to drum up support for the diplomatic effort while meeting with Sudanese First Vice President Bakri Hassan Salih.

Israel has taken a critical line with respect to the French proposal to hold an international conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israeli Foreign Ministry Director Dore Gold recently remarked that such a summit would “undermine the whole peace process [because it] is an alternative to direct negotiations.”

Also on Wednesday, al-Maliki sat down with his Sudanese counterpart, Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour, in order to discuss Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent high-profile tour of several East African countries, according to the Sudan Tribune. We “have identical views with respect to future action,” said al-Maliki, who also praised the Sudanese government and the support it extends to the PA.

Abbas traveled to Paris on Thursday to meet with French President Francois Hollande about the proposed French initiative. Abbas will return to Africa for the 27th Arab League summit that will be held in Mauritania at the end of the month.

This is not the first time that the Palestinian premier extended his support to al-Bashir, or thanked him for backing the Palestinian cause. In a 2010 letter to the Sudanese president, Abbas wrote that he and Palestinians “have complete faith in the wisdom of President Omar Al-Bashir,” according to the non-profit group Palestinian Media Watch. He added that Palestinians “stand side by side with the brother country Sudan,” and emphasized their “complete willingness to stand with Sudan in everything it wants and in the way it wants.”

Sudan was sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council in 2004 and 2005 following reports of the Sudanese government’s widespread human rights violations in Darfur. Al-Bashir has been accused by the ICC of carrying out a genocide against the Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa ethnic groups in the region at least between 2003 and 2008, and of atrocities including extermination, forcible transfer, torture, and rape.

According to the Holocaust Museum Houston:

Civil war has existed between the northern and southern regions of Sudan for more than a decade. The northern region, centered on the capital of Khartoum, is predominantly made up of Muslims who are ethnically Arab, while groups of Christians and animists live in the south. The Khartoum government under General Omar al-Bashir wished to create a more Islamic-based government that was opposed by the southern groups and led to civil war. …

The Sudanese government exploited these differences by arming ethnic Arab militia groups, known as the “Janjaweed,” to attack the ethnic African groups.  The government would attack from the air, and then, the Janjaweed forces would enact a scorched earth campaign, burning villages and poisoning wells.  Nearly 400,000 people have been killed, women have been systematically raped and millions of people have been displaced as a result of these actions.

The Arab League has rejected the charges against al-Bashir, stressing its “solidarity with Sudan” at the conclusion of a 2009 summit. One Arab leader who defended al-Bashir with particular conviction at the time was Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

[Photo: President M.Abbas / Youtube ]