Sudan’s interim government is having second thoughts about a deal that would allow Russia to establish a naval base on the Red Sea.
The deal is now under review to ensure it “serve[s] Sudan’s interests,” Sudanese officials informed a Russian delegation to Khartoum last week, said armed forces Chief of Staff Gen. Mohamed Othman al-Hussein in an interview with Sudan’s Blue Nile TV last night.
The deal, released by Moscow late last year, would allow Russia’s navy to maintain a 25-year lease at Port Sudan, housing up to four ships and 300 soldiers, in exchange for weapons and military equipment for Khartoum.
Russia claims the planned base would be for basic resupply and repairs, but the agreement also allows Russia to move “any weapons, ammunition and equipment” necessary through the port.
Sudan’s ousted dictator Omar al-Bashir initially discussed the agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2017.
“We’re in the process of renegotiating an agreement signed between the former government of Sudan and Russia regarding a Russian military project on the Sudanese Red Sea coast,” Mohammed Osman al-Hussein was quoted as saying.
“The agreement can be continued if we find benefits and profits for our country,” RIA Novosti quoted al-Hussein as saying to Sudan’s Blue Nile TV broadcaster.
President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday that the Kremlin had seen the news about Sudan’s decision and that it would “deal with this issue” through “constant contact” with Sudanese officials.
In December, Russia announced the signing of what would have been its first naval base in Africa and second on foreign territory after Syria’s Tartous. The 25-year deal entailed building a logistics hub for nuclear-powered warships, up to 300 military and civilian personnel in Port Sudan and the ability to ferry weapons into Sudan free of inspections.
Hussein also said recent US sanctions relief has opened Sudan to possible military cooperation with the United States, but he denied any connection to the review of the Port Sudan agreement.
US officials have eyed the Russian agreement warily. In April, the head of all US forces in Africa, Gen. Stephen Townsend, named the planned Russian base among his main strategic concerns on the continent, along with Russia’s foothold in Libya and China’s base in Djibouti.
Sudanese military officials are seeking closer ties with Washington, though some avenues remain blocked under US regulations.
Townsend has touted a policy of offering US counterterrorism support and training to governments in Africa to draw them closer into Washington’s orbit amid strategic competition with Russia and China.
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