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Sudan, Saudi Arabia discuss Red Sea investments 

The meeting between Sudanese officials, including Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz “was friendly and establishes a new chapter” in the countries’ ties, a Sudanese statement said.

Sudan’s prime minister and Saudi Arabia’s crown prince met Wednesday to discuss Saudi investment opportunities in the Red Sea, the Sudanese government said, as the kingdom seeks to boost its influence across the strategic Horn of Africa.

The high-level Sudanese delegation flew to Saudi Arabia this week for a two-day visit as the north-eastern African nation struggles to revive its ailing economy and secure a transition to democratic rule.

After years as a pariah under now-ousted autocrat Omar al-Bashir, Sudan has increasingly returned to the international fold, overhauling its economy to attract badly needed foreign investment.

The meeting between Sudanese officials, including Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, “was friendly and establishes a new chapter” in the countries’ ties, a Sudanese statement said.

The statement did not offer specifics on Saudi investment projects, but said talks focused on the “transformation” of the Red Sea into “a large development area to eradicate the roots of terrorism and poverty” and increase tourism.

Rapporteur of the Leadership council of the Revolutionary Front Muhammad Zakaria said the presence of the ministers of finance, agriculture, livestock and forestry, and the head of the intelligence service in the delegation proves that there are unremitting efforts to support peace and stabilise it, with the transitional government using its openness towards Saudi Arabia to implement the development plans it announced upon its formation.

Speaking to The Arab Weekly, Zakaria noted the participation of the Peace Bloc, a political partner within the transitional government, in the Riyadh meetings. He said such participation gives more guarantees to Saudi investment in Sudan’s peripheral states and reflects a readiness to provide the required assistance for the development of agricultural projects, specifically in the regions of the Blue Nile, South Kordofan and Darfur, in a way that benefits both parties, Sudan and Saudi Arabia.

Researcher at the Centre for International Studies in Khartoum, Al-Rasheed Muhammad Ibrahim said the issue of attracting investments is no longer an obsession for Sudan’s government, especially after Washington removed Khartoum from its States Sponsors of Terrorism list.

He noted that Saudi Arabia and the UAE have agreed to provide support through a number of projects that are being implemented.

Ibrahim indicated to The Arab Weekly that there is an Arab awareness about the serious threats facing Egypt and Sudan regarding the water security crisis, noting that the visit to Saudi Arabia was an opportunity to discuss the proposed solutions to deal with the Ethiopian intransigence regarding the filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. In this regard, Ibrahim argued that Sudan will not take unilateral actions and remains keen to coordinate with Arab actors.

The Red Sea features heavily in Saudi Arabia’s so-called Vision 2030 to diversify its economy away from oil with business zones along the coast.

The Saudi-led military coalition’s intervention in Yemen in 2015 against the Iran-backed Houthis has sharpened the kingdom’s focus on wielding influence along the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula.

Thousands of Sudanese troops have fought against the Houthis, a contentious deployment that aided the country’s treasury.

Sudan’s ruling Supreme Council, which is meant to steer the country toward democratic elections next year, is split between civilians and army generals.

This week marks the first time since Bashir’s overthrow that significant numbers of Sudan’s civilian leaders visited Saudi Arabia, which had cultivated close ties with Bashir and previously appeared to favour the country’s military strongmen over its pro-democracy movement.

Following Bashir’s overthrow, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates pledged $3 billion in aid to Sudan’s military council, with half of the amount already delivered.

Sudanese Finance Minister Gibril Ibrahim praised the “very successful” talks with the Saudi crown prince, noting plans for the kingdom to increase investments in Sudanese infrastructure, including agriculture and livestock.

Sudanese agricultural land remains a key interest for Arab Gulf states like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which import the majority of their food from abroad.

Sudan’s economy has teetered on the brink in recent months, with inflation soaring past 300% in January.

Source : Arab Weekly

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