Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is expected in Sudan on Wednesday on a two-day official visit, the local news agency SUNA has said.
The news agency said that the visit comes as part of a tour that includes Iraq, Mauritania and Mali, in addition to Sudan.
Lavrov will hold talks with his Sudanese counterpart Ali Al-Sadig on bilateral, regional and international issues of common interest, as well as ways to “increase the balance of trade exchange and Russian investments, especially in the field of infrastructure”.
This is the second visit by Lavrov in Sudan, having first toured the country in December 2014 when Sudan was under the leadership of Omar al-Bashir.
Ties with Russia cemented
Bashir is long gone but Sudan’s ties with Russia have been cemented, especially after the military took power by force in October 2021, toppling the transitional government of Abdalla Hamdok.
Last year, as the world condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo aka Hemdti toured Moscow to cement the ties, according to an official dispatch at the time.
In Khartoum, Foreign Minister-Designate Ali al-Sadig said in a statement to the Sudan News Agency that Sudan welcomes Lavrov’s visit and looks forward to promoting bilateral relations and implementing bilateral cooperation programmes in accordance with the outputs of the joint ministerial committee that was held in Moscow in 2018.
Amin Majzoob, a political and military strategist in Khartoum, told The EastAfrican that Lavrov’s tour may be in the context of recent agreements between Sudan and Russia regarding discussions for Moscow to set up what officials have called a logistics centre or a naval base in Port Sudan.
Russia is trying to compete with the US, France and the UK for influence in the Sudanese crisis, he said. There have been reports of Russian mercenaries in Sudan recently.
“That is a very important issue, which is what is going on in Africa — the presence of the Russian Wagner security services company. It is a very complicated matter of the Russian presence in Africa,” he said.
“In general, Sudan has become, in its strategic geopolitical location, an area of conflict but also of regional and international influence. It is clear that the war of military bases has started and every country wants to reserve its place on the Sudanese coast,” Maj-Gen Majzoob said.
The importance of the Sudanese coast is that it links to the Red Sea, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Some 90 percent of the Gulf oil that goes to the US and to Southeast Asia, for example, passes through this region, meaning that the Red sea area is a high priority region. Whoever controls the waters can easily suffocate a rival.