A lot of doubts and questions have been raised after the tripartite meeting between Turkish, Sudanese and Qatari Army chiefs in Khartoum on December 27.
This meeting came on the sidelines of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Sudan, in which he received the responsibility of managing Suakin Island for an undetermined period of time.
Addressing a Sudanese-Turkish economic forum in Khartoum on Monday, Erdogan said that Turkey asked to rebuild Suakin a long time ago and President Omar al-Bashir agreed.
According to Anadolu-Turkish agency, the tripartite meeting between Hulusi Akar of Turkey, Imad al-Din Mustafa Adawi of Sudan and Ghanim bin Shaheen al-Ghanim of Qatar took place in the Sudanese capital. However, no further details were released about the meeting or the issues that were discussed.
Several Gulf media outlets questioned the intentions of the meeting and its timing. Sky News said that it is normal for the Sudanese and Turkish officials to meet in conjunction with Erdoğan’s visit, but with the Qatari presence, a lot of doubts and fears start to rise.
Since June 2017, Qatar has been considered a controversial country due to its “continuous support for terrorism” according to the Arab quartet, namely Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt. Therefore all of the four countries decided to cut all diplomatic ties with it, closing their airspace and seaports to Qatari traffic.
Since then, a diplomatic crisis erupted in the Middle East. It is described as the longest crisis in decades. Several mediations attempted to solve the problem including Kuwaiti Emir Sabah Al-Ahmad, but all of the reconciliation attempts were reported as “failed.”
Several diplomatic issues remain pending between Sudan and Egypt. Those issues include Nile Renaissance Dam project negotiations, and the Halayeb Triangle dispute.
On December 21, Egypt asserted complete rejection of the Sudanese reports that claimed its sovereignty over the Halayeb Triangle. Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Ahmed Abu Zeid, said in an official statement that Egypt would deliver a letter to the United Nations Secretariat in protest against the actions of Sudan.
The Halayeb Triangle is an area of land measuring 20,580 square kilometers, located at the Egyptian-Sudanese border on the Red Sea coast. It is part of the Red Sea governorate and consists of three major towns: Halayeb (which became a city in February 2014), Abu Ramad and Shalateen.
The mutual relations between Turkey and Sudan witnessed huge development since Erdogan’s Party (Justice and Development) came to power in 2002. The “strong and historical” relationship, as described by the Turkish president during the visit, has been rewarded finally with Turkey taking the management responsibility of Suakin Island.
Suakin, which has a significant location on the west coast of the Red Sea, was formally ruled by the Ottomans in 1517 and became the residence center of the Turkish governor.
The island’s port was renowned for being one of the most important crossings in Africa. Ships coming from Saudi Arabia and Egyptian ports crossed it. However, most of the historic buildings on the island are now in ruins.
Today, with the Turkey gaining management of the Sudanese island, and Qatar’s mysterious participation, the Arab world has a lot of doubts about the kind of cooperation the three countries might have discussed during their meeting.