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Today's Zaman

Kamalak: Sudan victim of greater Middle East project

29 April 2012, Sunday /AYDIN ALBAYRAK
The chairman of the Felicity Party (SP), Mustafa Kamalak, believes the problem Sudan is currently suffering from is no different than issues of disintegration faced throughout the Islamic world.

Sudan, which saw the separation of its southern territory in July of last year after a referendum, recently clashed with South Sudan on the border, with tension still running high. And for Kamalak, who visited Sudan with a group of party members to attempt to form a congress with the Sudanese Muslim Brotherhood on April 18-19, when the conflict was hot, one needs to look at the bigger picture to understand the problem.

Talking about the bigger picture, Kamalak told Sunday’s Zaman in an interview: “Condoleezza Rice’s words ring in my ears. The map of the greater Middle East swims before my eyes.” He was alluding to Rice’s statement in a 2003 article written while she served as US secretary of state, that maps of the 22 countries of the Middle East would change.

Noting that all of the 22 countries Rice talked about were Muslim countries, Kamalak placed Sudan within this bigger picture. “Those who used to be brothers are now busy killing each other,” he commented, describing what’s happening in the divided Sudan. With the division of the country last year, families have also been divided: Quite a few families have relatives living on either side of the border.

He is also concerned that the so-called Arab Spring might turn into a winter for the Islamic world, given that Iraq has, maybe not officially, but effectively broken up, and Libya and Syria are under the threat of a similar fate. For the Arab Spring not to turn into a winter of Islam, Muslims should not fall into conflict among themselves, and no authority vacuum should be allowed to exist, according to Kamalak, who stressed that the solution to the problems of the Islamic world lies in uniting together.

Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti called Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to ask for his help in stopping border clashes while violent fighting was happening about 10 days ago. But Kamalak draws attention to the fact that one needs to be powerful if one is to act as mediator to be able to obtain a lasting result, implying that if there is no hard power behind it, such an initiative would run the risk of bearing no result.

However, Kamalak thinks Turkey could achieve much if it just turned its face to the Muslim world. He noted that the Islamic world has big expectations from Turkey, but “Turkey is not aware of its power, and it is looking in the wrong direction [towards Europe].” Kamalak criticized Turkey’s efforts to join the European Union, which he claims is a crusader union.

Turkey maintained good relations with Sudan until a couple of years ago, but what Kamalak has said regarding visa procedures between Turkey and the two countries implies that Turkey is holding the Sudanese at arm’s length. “I obtained a visa from the Sudanese Embassy in a day. But the Sudanese need to wait at least a week, sometimes a month and even more to get a visa from the Turkish Embassy.”

The reason for the delay is that the documents of the visa applicants are sent to the Turkish National Police Department for investigation. “Sudanese officials told me there has been a relative regression in relations in the past two years,” he said. This brings to mind as a probability that the arrest warrants the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued in 2009 and 2010 for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for genocide and war crimes committed in Darfur might have something to do with Turkey’s decision, a decision possibly taken with a little bit of international pressure. Speaking of the friendly attitude the Sudanese have towards Turkey, with the history of the two countries’ relations dating back to Ottoman times, Kamalak said, “They don’t see Turkey as a different country, and feel we are brothers.”

South Sudan declared independence from Sudan in July of last year, as part of a peace treaty concluded in 2005, following a referendum after decades of civil war. But the two never agreed on how to share the oil wealth found in the region, and the border was never fully demarcated. Fighting along the ill-defined border between the former civil war foes has led to a standoff over the Heglig oil field after it was seized about two weeks ago by troops from South Sudan, leading Sudan to bomb the South’s oil fields and drive back the military units of the South from Heglig.

South Sudan’s oil wealth used to reach the outside world through a pipeline running across Sudan, but the South shut down oil production, accusing its northern neighbor of stealing a substantial amount of the oil it exported. The African Union has recently called on both countries to cease hostilities, issuing a seven-point statement. The union urged the two countries to resume the negotiations which broke down in early April.

The population of the now northern part of Sudan is mainly Muslim, while the South is animist and Christian. Decades of civil war between the two groups led to the death of 2 million people, and displaced millions. Turkey recognized South Sudan when it declared independence and opened an embassy in its capital, Juba.

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