Sudan military finishes review of Russian Red Sea base deal

CAIRO (AP) — Sudan’s ruling military 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 a legislative body to be ratified before it takes effect. The officials said Moscow met Sudan’s most recent demands, including providing more weapons and equipment.

“They cleared 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 condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. A spokesman for the Sudanese military declined to comment.

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

Sudan has been without a parliament since a popular uprising forced the military overthrow of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir in April 2019. The country has been mired in political chaos since an October 2021 military coup derailed its short-lived transition to democracy.

The deal, which surfaced in December 2021, is part of Moscow’s efforts to restore a regular naval presence in various parts of the globe. 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.

The base would ensure the Russian navy’s presence in the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean and spare its ships the need for long voyages to reach the area, according to Viktor Bondarev, the former Russian air force chief.

In exchange, Russia is to provide Sudan with weapons and military equipment. The agreement is to last for 25 years, with automatic extensions for 10-year periods if neither side objects.

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 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 poses 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 in dealing with anyone, Russian or otherwise,” he said.

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