February 14, 2009 (KHARTOUM) — Egypt’s top diplomat today pledged that his government will continue to work on pressing the UN Security Council (UNSC) to block the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecution of the Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir.
“We are moving with the UNSC members and are trying to implement Article 16 of the ICC statute to stop any action against Sudan and president Bashir” the Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Aboul-Gheit told reporters in Khartoum today.
“Egypt will not allow this situation to lead to a threat of Sudan, its territorial integrity and safety” he added.
Aboul-Gheit along with Egypt’s intelligence director Omer Suleiman arrived in Sudan on a short visit to convey a message from President Hosni Mubarak to his Sudanese counterpart.
The two Egyptian officials held a closed meeting with the Sudanese president after which they were joined by Sudan’s spy chief Salah Gosh and other officials from both sides.
The London based Al-Hayat newspaper quoted unidentified Sudanese officials as saying that Mubarak’s letter explained efforts to bring up the ICC deferral issue during his European tour that included France, Turkey and Italy.
However Mubarak urged Bashir to take “practical, serious and quick” steps with regards to Darfur peace and war crimes trials to convince the international community on Khartoum’ seriousness.
The ICC judges are expected to release a decision before the end of the month in which they agree to issue an arrest warrant for Al-Bashir on an unspecified number of counts.
Last July the ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo requested that the judges issue an arrest warrant for Bashir on three counts of genocide, five of crimes against humanity and two of murder.
Ocampo accused Al-Bashir of masterminding a campaign to get rid of the African tribes in Darfur; Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa.
The Egyptian foreign minister acknowledged that a joint Arab League-African Union (AU) delegation that lobbied the UNSC this week on Article 16 have failed to achieve a breakthrough.
“It is clear that this mission has not accomplished what is required of it and we stressed to president Bashir that Egypt will use everything in its power and contacts with UNSC to raise this issue and achieve positive results” Aboul-Gheit said.
Aboul-Gheit and Suleiman flew to Libya from Sudan and met with president Mu’ammar Ghaddafi to discuss a range of issues including the Darfur crisis. Egyptian state media reported that both sides agreed on the need to defer the ICC indictment.
The Sudanese presidential spokesperson Mahjoub Badri spoke out strongly against any ICC arrest warrant, asking how the world could continue to have normal diplomatic relations with Khartoum after any such step.
“We put this question to every country that recognizes the jurisdiction of the ICC…if an arrest warrant is issued, are your ambassadors going to consider Omar Al-Bashir as a president or a defendant?” Bakri asked.
The African Union, Arab League, Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) called for invoking Article 16 which allows the UNSC to suspend the ICC prosecutions in any case for a period of 12 months that can be renewed indefinitely.
However the supporters of Article 16 do not have the required nine votes to push through this resolution.