x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Struggling Sudan gets $1 bn from Qatar

Qatar's backing of Sudan has become crucial after the country's currency plunged in value and inflation soared following the secession of South Sudan in 2011.

The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, left, greets the Sudanese president Omar Al Bashir during a visit to Khartoum on April 2, 2104. Ashraf Shazly / AFP
The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, left, greets the Sudanese president Omar Al Bashir during a visit to Khartoum on April 2, 2104. Ashraf Shazly / AFP

KHARTOUM // Qatar’s emir held talks in Sudan on Wednesday at a time of strained ties between his country and other Gulf countries over Doha’s perceived support for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani was greeted at Khartoum airport by Sudan’s President Omar Al Bashir, at the start of what an analyst called a meeting of two regionally isolated regimes.

The Sudanese regime, which took power 25 years ago in an Islamist-backed coup, is essentially based on support from the Brotherhood, said Safwat Fanous, a political scientist at the University of Khartoum.

He said the Sheikh Tamim’s visit appears aimed to “break the isolation” of Qatar.

Qatar has been an important backer of Sudan’s government, which is “in desperate need of foreign direct investment”, said Khalid Tigani, chief editor of the Elaff economic weekly.

Diplomatic and other sources said last month that major European and Saudi banks had stopped dealing with Sudan, adding to the sanctions-hit state’s isolation and further straining its cash-starved economy.

Khartoum says the banks are under increased pressure from the United States, which has a 17-year-old trade embargo against Sudan.

Ties Doha and Khartoum, meanwhile, “are witnessing rapid progress”, with Qatari investing in agriculture and mining, the foreign ministry spokesman Abubakr Al Siddiq said, quoted by the official Suna news agency.

Sudanese officials last month said Qatar was providing an unprecedented US$135 million (Dh495m) to support Sudan’s rich but underdeveloped archaeological heritage.

Qatar also hosted talks which led to the 2011 Doha Document for Peace in Darfur between Khartoum and rebel splinter groups in the western region of Sudan, where violence has worsened this year.

“This agreement didn’t bring peace to Darfur,” said Mr Fanous of the University of Khartoum. “I think the Qatar role in Darfur is shrinking.”

In early March, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Qatar.

Qatar is a perceived supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood which is banned in most Gulf states.

* Agence France-Presse