ISTANBUL - Turkish Daily News
An eagerly awaited Turkish-African summit has been overshadowed by the presence of Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, in his first trip abroad since an international court indicted him for genocide.
Bashir, who arrived in Turkey yesterday, is expected to head Sudan's delegation, and also to hold bilateral meetings with Turkish President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the sidelines of a summit focusing mostly on energy and trade.
This is not Bashir's first visit to Turkey however. On January he arrived in Ankara, his first official visit to the country, again drawing criticism from the international community.
The International Criminal Court, or ICC, Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo last month asked the court to issue an arrest warrant for Bashir on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, saying his state apparatus had killed 35,000 people and was indirectly responsible for the deaths of a further 100,000.
Al-Bashir has said that Sudan does not recognize the court in The Hague, Netherlands, and will never cooperate with it.
Asked about the possibility of an ICC warrant being issued while Bashir is in Istanbul, a Turkish Foreign Ministry official declined to speculate on what Turkey would do. "Bashir was invited to the summit as a leader of an African country and there is no arrest warrant against him at this moment. If there are any requests, we will evaluate them then," the official told Reuters.
As Turkey has not ratified the treaty forming the ICC, the court's decision is not binding on the country. However, Turkey is under pressure to become a party to the ICC as part of negotiations to join the European Union.
ICC judges could take weeks or months to issue a warrant, but have never failed to issue one after it has been requested by the prosecutor. The court returned from recess yesterday.
U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said Friday it was "concerned" by Turkey's decision to welcome Bashir. "The Turkish government should reject efforts by Sudan's President Omar Bashir to secure a suspension of the International Criminal Court's investigation against him," Human Rights Watch said in a statement.
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, declined to comment on the visit by al-Bashir to Turkey and said the United States is happy to see Turkey is strengthening its ties with Africa.
“The international community has spoken through the International Criminal Court concerning the charges of genocide against al-Bashir. We would be very happy if Turkey would join the international community in their comdemnation of him,” said the same official.