‘Turkey, Qatar risk losing regional influence’

25 May, 2019 12:00 AM printer

DUBAI: Turkey and Qatar risk losing geopolitical influence due to turmoil in Libya and Sudan, as regional rivals Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates extend their own reach, analysts said, reports AFP.

Doha, a long-time ally of deposed Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, has silently watched developments unfold in Khartoum following the veteran leader’s ouster on April 11.

Talks between Sudan’s military rulers and protesters on a transition to civilian rule remain deadlocked.

Bashir, who came to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989, had long been able to count on foreign aid from energy-rich Qatar, which—along with Turkey—supports Islamist groups, primarily the Muslim Brotherhood.

“Doha has lost influence in Sudan amid the revolution,” Andreas Krieg, a professor at King’s College London, told AFP. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of Sudan’s new military council, “has stronger ties to Abu Dhabi than Doha”, Krieg said.

Key regional power brokers Saudi Arabia and the UAE have voiced support for the transitional council, while they continue to isolate Qatar for allegedly supporting “terrorists” and seeking closer ties with arch-rival Iran.

Sudan is part of a UAE and Saudi-led military coalition fighting Iran-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen.

Krieg said Riyadh and Abu Dhabi are “trying to cement their personal relationship” with Burhan and “consolidate long-term control” in the country.

Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the deputy chief of Sudan’s military council, met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah on Thursday, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.

“There is a struggle over power and influence in Sudan between those in favour of the Qatar-Turkey camp and those inclined to join the Saudi-UAE camp,” said Mathieu Guidere, a professor at the University of Paris and a specialist in Arab politics.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have each deposited $250 million (223 million euros) in Sudan’s central bank as part of a three-billion dollar support package following Bashir’s departure.

The two oil-rich countries oppose any kind of popular uprising in the region that could lead to the rise of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, which they vehemently oppose—as was the case in Libya in 2011 following the ouster of dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

Doha’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood—which Saudi Arabia and its allies blacklist as a “terrorist” organisation—is one of the reasons behind the ongoing diplomatic dispute with Qatar.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut all ties with Doha in June 2017 over accusations it supports “terrorists”. Qatar denies the allegations.

For leaders of the protest movement in Sudan, neither regional camps should play a role in the country.