Turkey's Gul urges Sudan leader to end suffering
ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) — Turkey's president urged Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir during talks Tuesday to act responsibly and to end the suffering in the devasted Darfur region.
Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court accuse al-Bashir of genocide by unleashing militias on ethnic African groups in Darfur that rebelled against his government. Some 300,000 people have been killed and more than 2.5 million displaced since 2003.
"Human suffering agitates all, no matter which religion, ethnicity or language those who suffer belong to," Turkish President Abdullah Gul told al-Bashir during their closed-door meeting, the state-run news Anatolia news agency reported.
"Everyone needs to do their part to alleviate this pain," Gul said.
A Turkish official who was at the talks confirmed the report, adding that al-Bashir accused foreign parties of interference in Darfur, without elaborating. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Al-Bashir is in Turkey for a summit of African leaders, his first trip abroad since the International Criminal Court indicted him in July on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The Sudanese leader has said Khartoum does not recognize the court in The Hague, Netherlands, and will never cooperate with it.
Neither Sudan nor Turkey signed the treaty that founded the court, meaning Turkish authorities are unlikely to arrest al-Bashir even if the court's international prosecutor is able to issue a warrant.
A panel of judges was reviewing evidence submitted by the prosecutor for a warrant.
However, Turkey — which aspires to join the European Union — is under pressure to take a critical stance on Sudan.
New York-based Human Rights Watch called on Turkey to express to the Sudanese delegation that it supports the court's move.
Al-Bashir's regime is accused of directing the janjaweed militia campaign against black African groups that say the government discriminates against ethnic Africans. The janjaweed militias also are blamed for extreme violence against civilians.
Al-Bashir was among heads of state attending the Turkey-Africa Cooperation Summit, aimed at expanding Turkey's diplomatic and trade ties with the African continent. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe was not expected to attend.
Turkey's Foreign Minister Ali Babacan on Monday asked his African counterparts to support Ankara's candidacy for a temporary seat on the U.N. Security Council.
"We assure you that we will do our best to be the voice of Africa, along with African nations on the Security Council," he said.
Turkey also is trying to finalize its membership process in the African Development Bank Group, which will help Turkish companies bid for development projects in Africa. The trade volume between Turkey and African was around US$13 billion (euro8.8 billion) last year, and the sides are hoping to triple that amount by the end of 2010.
The summit started Monday with talks among high-level officials from around 50 countries. Al-Bashir and other heads of state held meetings Tuesday. It is al-Bashir's second visit to Turkey this year.