Sudan military finishes review of Russian Red Sea base deal

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, left, and Sudanese acting foreign minister Ali al-Sadiq give a joint press conference at the airport in Khartoum, Sudan, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023. 

Sudan’s ruling military has concluded a review of an agreement with Russia to build a navy base on the Red Sea in the African country, two Sudanese officials said Saturday.

They said the deal was awaiting the formation of a civilian government and ratification by a legislative body before it took effect. The officials said that Moscow met Sudan’s most recent demands, which included sending more weapons and equipment.

“They cleared up all our concerns. The deal has become OK from the military side,” one official said.

The officials did not provide further details and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. A spokesman for the Sudanese military declined to comment.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also said Thursday that the deal still needs ratification by Sudan’s yet-to-be-formed legislative body.

Sudan hasn’t had a parliament since April 2019, when longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir was forced out of power by the military after a popular uprising. Since a military coup in October 2021 stopped the country’s short-lived move to democracy, the government has been in a mess.

The deal, which was made public in December 2021, is part of Moscow’s plan to get its navy back into regular service in different parts of the world. It was reached during al-Bashir’s reign.

The agreement allows Russia to set up a naval base with up to 300 Russian troops and to simultaneously keep up to four navy ships, including nuclear-powered ones, in the strategic Port Sudan on the Red Sea.

Viktor Bondarev, the former head of the Russian air force, says that the base would keep the Russian navy present in the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean and keep its ships from having to make long trips to get there.

In exchange, Russia is to provide Sudan with weapons and military equipment. The agreement will last for 25 years, and if neither side objects, it will be automatically extended for 10 years at a time.

In June 2021, Sudan’s Chief of General Staff, Gen. Mohammed Othman al-Hussein, told a local television station that Khartoum would review the agreement.

In February of last year, Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, commander of the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, held talks with senior Russian officials in Moscow.

Upon his return from the weeklong trip, Dagalo said his country didn’t have objections to Russia or any other country establishing a base on its territory, as it posed no threat to Sudan’s national security.

“If any country wants to open a base and it is in our interests and doesn’t threaten our national security, we have no problem dealing with anyone, Russian or otherwise,” he said.

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