Tensions rising between Sudan and Saudi Arabia

A senior official in Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) admitted yesterday that his country’s ties with Saudi Arabia are strained in the wake of Riyadh’s decision to bar its banks from dealing with its Sudanese counterparts.

The NCP head of the external relations al-Dirdeeri Mohamed Ahmed who was asked on the Saudi move on Wednesday said that while tensions exist in their ties, efforts are underway to reverse this trend.

“There is so much that is being done now, both public and non-public to bring things back to their original state,” the NCP official was quoted as saying by al-Taghyeer online news portal.

Ahmed rejected using the term blockade to describe Saudi Arabia’s decision stating that the Arab Gulf nation “does not embargo Sudan”.

Over the few years there have been mounting signs of deteriorating relations between Khartoum and Riyadh.

Last August, Saudi Arabia closed its airspace to the plane carrying Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir on his way to Iran where he was scheduled to attend the inauguration ceremony of president-elect Hassan Rouhani thus forcing him and his delegation to return home.

Observers speculated that Sudan’s growing ties with Iran could have irked the Saudis prompting them to block Bashir’s flight.

Sudan has allowed Iranian warships to dock in Port Sudan three times over the last year and a half, drawing concern by the United States and its allies in the Gulf.

The mostly Sunni Muslim Arab Gulf states are wary of Iranian influence in the Middle East, fearing the Shiite-led country is seeking regional dominance that will stir sectarian tensions.

The Syrian conflict has also increased the divide between the two sides, with Arab monarchies supporting the rebels and Iran backing the Al-Assad regime.

Bashir, who performed the Muslim Hajj (pilgrimage) last year, did not meet with King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz during the visit, despite the Saudi monarch holding separate talks with the Turkish and Pakistani presidents who also performed Hajj this year.

On Saturday, the Sudanese finance minister, Badr al-Deen Mahmoud attributed a decision made by several foreign banks to stop dealings with their Sudanese counterparts to pressures exercised on them by the United States.

Saudi Arabia and some European banks have reportedly suspended their dealings with Sudan as of the February 28th. Sudanese officials initially refused to comment on the move which was widely circulated within the business community in Khartoum.

There was no comment from Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) and it is not clear if the latter issued the directive or if it was decision by individual banks.

Mahmoud said that two Saudi banks have suspended their financial transactions with Sudan, describing banking interactions particularly with the Arab countries as crucial because it links Khartoum to the international banking system.

He pointed to pressures exerted by the US on some banks dealing with Sudan and said those pressures have existed since 1997, disclosing ongoing arrangements to overcome negative effects of the decision.

US sanctions dating back to the Clinton administration in 1997 bars any financial dealings with Sudan or institutions owned by Khartoum which complicates Sudan’s access to international financial markets and US dollars.

But the minister’s comment contradicted a statement issued by the Central Bank of Sudan (CBoS) on Thursday in which it attributed the move to what it termed routine banking procedures by the financial institutions.

According to the CBoS, the decision is related to internal procedures within the framework of institutional control at those banks.

“This is normal in the field of banking that experiences continuous changes”, it added.


Read the full article at Sudan Tribune: “Sudan acknowledges tensions with Saudi Arabia after ban on bilateral bank dealings”(March 1, 2014)

Content gathered and compiled from online and offline media by Hornaffairs staff based on relevance and interest to the Horn of Africa.

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