June 14, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir will travel to China next week in a previously unannounced visit, an Iranian official said on Tuesday.
The Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Amir Mansour Borqaee today handed over an invitation to Bashir for participation in a conference titled ‘A World free from Terrorism: Global Combat against Terrorism’ that will be held on June 25-26 in Teheran.
Borqaee told reporters after his meeting with Bashir that the conference date coincides with a visit by Bashir to China but suggested that an arrangement could be made that would guarantee his participation.
Sudan Tribune has been unable to obtain details from officials in Khartoum on the nature of Bashir’s visit to Beijing which has not been made public before.
The country’s official news agency (SUNA) omitted references made by Borqaee to the China visit but said that the Bashir gave his preliminary approval to participate in the Tehran conference.
Travel plans by Bashir to certain countries are not made public in light of an outstanding arrest warrant against him issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for his alleged role in war crimes and genocide committed in Sudan’s western region of Darfur.
The Sudanese leader faces the theoretical risk of being arrested abroad particularly in states that are ICC members. However three African countries that are signatories to the treaty of the court allowed him to visit without incident.
This would be the first time Bashir traveled to China since the issuance of the warrant and the first to a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
In March 2005 the UNSC referred the situation Darfur to the ICC in a Chapter VII resolution despite Sudan not being party to the Rome Statute. China surprised observers and Khartoum by simply abstaining rather than using its veto power to block it.
Chinese companies are major investors in Sudan’s oil, and China is Khartoum’s top arms supplier, something long criticized by human rights activists and Western governments, especially because of the conflict in Darfur.
Despite this Wikileaks cables released last year showed Chinese officials who were more concerned about the safety of Beijing’s lucrative businesses in Sudan rather than the fate of Bashir.
In 2009, the Chinese special envoy to Darfur Liu Guijin told reporters that his country does not intend to table a resolution that freezes Bashir’s indictment for a year and instead called on African UNSC members to do so.