(CNSNews.com) – Neither Saudi Arabia nor Sudan have officially announced that Sudan’s president, accused of war crimes, will take part in a summit with President Trump in Riyadh at the weekend, although it seems unlikely King Salman would jeopardize what is being touted as a hugely important event for the kingdom.
Sudan’s foreign minister told wire agencies that President Omar al-Bashir was invited to the Arab-Islamic-U.S. summit, but his name is still not among the invitees appearing in official Saudi Press Agency bulletins. Twenty-five Arab and Islamic heads of state have been named in the SPA bulletins.
On the other hand, a graphic on the summit’s newly-unveiled official website showing the U.S. flag along with more than 50 others, does includes the national flag of Sudan.
The Saudi Embassy in Washington has not responded to queries on the matter, but the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum in a statement made clear the U.S. would not support Bashir’s travel to or attendance at the summit.
“In response to rumors recently circulating in the media, U.S. Embassy Khartoum reiterates that the United States has made its position with respect to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s travel clear,” it said.
Employing a phrase used multiple times by the State Department since at least 2011, the embassy then added, “We oppose invitations, facilitation, or support for travel by any person subject to outstanding International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrants, including President Bashir.”
On U.S. policy towards Sudan more broadly, the embassy declared that Sudan’s designation as a state-sponsor of terror remains unchanged.
“We have been quite clear with the government of Sudan on the steps that need to be taken for us to consider delisting, as well as what would be required to make progress in easing economic sanctions.”
Despite the absence of confirmation, reports that Bashir had been invited to the summit triggered strong reactions on social media.
Of note among them was a tweet from Susan Rice, who served as President Obama’s national security adviser and ambassador to the U.N.
“This is outrageous,” said Rice. “The US President sitting down with a genocidaire!!! Have we totally lost our values? Crazy even by today’s standards.”
Bashir, an Islamist who has ruled Sudan since seizing power in a military coup in 1989, has been wanted by the ICC since early 2009 on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity arising from the conflict in Darfur. Genocide charges were added in 2010.
The Sudan Tribune newspaper reports that Saudi minister of state Mohammed bin Abdul Malik al-Sheikh paid an unannounced visit to Khartoum on Tuesday and met with Sudan’s minister of presidential affairs.
No statements were made afterwards, leaving open the possibility that the Saudi had brought an invitation, it said. Another possibility, not suggested by the paper, was that the two discussed a face-saving solution to the kingdom’s quandary, such as attendance by another Sudanese representative.
Countries that are party to the ICC’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, are obliged to cooperate with the ICC – an obligation generally interpreted as denoting the arrest of indictees and their surrender to the court in The Hague.
Yet since 2009 Bashir has traveled relatively freely – mostly in Africa and the Middle East, but also to China – and has participated in numerous summits. Countries he has visited that are also Rome Statute parties include South Africa, Jordan, Malawi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
He visited Saudi Arabia, not a Rome signatory, as recently as January, and since then has traveled to Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Ethiopia and – just last weekend – Qatar.
Khartoum’s state-sponsor of terrorism designation dates back to 1993, one year after Bashir began hosting Osama bin Laden who had been expelled from his native Saudi Arabia.
The fugitive al-Qaeda terrorist used Sudan as his base of operations until 1996 before returning to Afghanistan. A U.S. federal court in 2007 found that Sudan’s active support for al-Qaeda during the 1990s had been critical in enabling the terror network to develop the expertise and resources to bomb the USS Cole in Yemen’s Aden port in 2000, an attack that killed 17 U.S. sailors.