A convoy of Turkish warships docked Tuesday at Sudan’s seaport, where the naval forces are expected to conduct drills with their Sudanese counterparts in the Red Sea, officials from Turkey's embassy in Khartoum said Monday. The visit is part of a tour launched earlier this year to bolster Turkey’s relations with other Arab countries in the region, according to the Daily Sabah newspaper in Istanbul.
The Turkish navy is scheduled to leave Port Sudan Thursday, four days before Sudan’s presidential and parliamentary elections are slated to take place. Opposition parties and armed groups have protested the elections, in which Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is expected to prolong his 25-year-long rule with no clear challengers outside his National Congress Party. The Sudanese government has been fighting armed factions in Darfur, Blue Nile and Kordofan since 2011. About 430,000 people were displaced last year alone, according to the United Nations.
Bashir, 70, has been charged by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes and genocide. But his regime has maintained good relations with Turkey since 2002, when the ruling Turkish Islamic party took power. The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs has described its political relationship with Sudan as “excellent.” The two countries have witnessed rapid development since establishing an interparliamentary friendship in 1999. Turkish companies have spent a total of $300 million on infrastructure projects in Sudan. Bilateral trade volume between Turkey and Sudan generated $295 million in 2013.
Last year, in June, Turkish warships docked off the Sudanese coast for the first time in nearly 150 years during a 102-day tour around the Cape of Good Hope, according to StarAfrica. The visit with Sudan included joint military and medical training exercises, and Turkish ship crews also provided educational and medical equipment as a gift to the Sudanese. The 2014 tour was meant to strengthen relations with African nations and establish a Turkish naval presence in international waters, according to WorldBulletin News.