January 19, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese presidential adviser Mustafa Osman Ismail secretly met with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in Damascus yesterday, Sudan Tribune has learned.
Well placed sources told Sudan Tribune the unannounced meeting discussed the situation in Syria amid continued unrest and violent crackdown in that country since early 2011. They also reviewed the work of the Arab league monitors team dispatched last December.
The observer mission is headed by the Sudanese general Mohammed al-Dabi whose appointment drew strong criticism by Syrian opposition and human right groups due to his past as leading several security organs in Sudan accused of ill-treatment of dissidents.
The head of the monitoring team was still working on his report and would not arrive at the League’s Cairo headquarters until Saturday, the day before Arab foreign ministers are due to weigh their next move on Syria, according to Reuters.
Ismail tackled the recent Arab positions and how to move past the current tensions between Syria and other countries, particularly Qatar, according to the sources.
But the Syrian president in the talks rejected suggestions made by the Qatari Emir Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Thani that Arab countries should consider sending troops to the Arab country in order to “stop the killing”.
The United Nations estimates that the unrest in Syria between the security forces and pro-democracy activists has left more than 5,400 people dead since it first erupted in March, with 400 killed since the observers deployed.
Sudan has changed hearts with regards to Syria and agreed to Arab League decision imposing sanctions on Damascus. Prior to that Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir called events in Syria an international conspiracy.
This month Bashir called on Damascus to embrace “reforms” suggested by Khartoum that are enshrined in Sudan’s constitution and its political parties’ laws.
The sources refused to say whether Syria remained upset at Sudan’s position after Ismail’s visit.
Al-Assad and other Syrian officials slammed Sudan suggesting that it turned its back on Damascus despite support it lent to Khartoum in the past particularly in connection with the International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant against Bashir.
On Wednesday the Sudanese presidential adviser also met in Cairo with Hamas politburo Chief Khalid Meshaal and Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmed. The details of the meeting were not divulged.