Saturday January 8th 2011: Hillary Clinton Leaves for the Gulf and South Sudan Will Soon Head to the Polls *updated*
Secretary Clinton heads for Oman, the UAE and Qatar and I’m sure it will be a trip that gets a lot of media attention given the issues she will be addressing while there. In addition, the Sudan referendum vote takes place on January 9th and it balloting will go on for a week. Secretary Clinton will no doubt be keeping a close eye on what takes place there. Initial rumors (in the Sudanese press) that she would travel to Sudan were never confirmed.
Last evening Secretary Clinton was in NY where she met with the recovering Saudi King and Prime Minister Hariri of Lebanon:
Hillary reaffirmed strong US support for Lebanon’s independence and for the work of the UN-backed tribunal that is investigating the 2005 assassination of Hariri’s father, Rafiq, a source who attended the Hillary-Hariri meeting said.
The Saudi ambassador to Washington also met Hariri and it was not excluded that the Prime Minister could also meet with the Saudi monarch, who is in New York recovering from back surgery, diplomats said.
Hillary first met King Abdullah. No details of the talks were given but State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said before the meeting: “Certainly, she will emphasise to the king, as well as to the prime minister, our support of the democratic government in Lebanon, as well as our ongoing support for the special tribunal.”
The US Secretary of State went from the hotel where the king is staying straight to a nearby hotel next to Central Park to meet Hariri.
“Secretary Clinton expressed her strong support for the independence and sovereignty of Lebanon,” a source who attended the Hariri meeting said.
Hillary also “expressed very clearly her support for the Hariri tribunal.” Lebanon’s Prime Minister has said several times he will not give into pressure from the Hezbollah militia to end support for the tribunal.
The secretary of state left the hotel saying her talks had been “excellent” but no other official details were given. The United States has repeatedly underlined its commitment to Hariri’s government and to the tribunal.
Just after she left, the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Adel Al-Jubeir, was seen going to the Hariri suite.
Saudi Arabia and Syria have been trying to mediate an end to tensions between Hariri’s government and Hezbollah movement over the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) investigation into the murder of the elder Hariri.
The tribunal is expected to announce indictments for the assassination within weeks and several media reports have said top Hezbollah officials will be among those charged.
Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran and Syria, has called for a boycott of the tribunal and has been pressuring Hariri to disavow the tribunal’s work. It has denied involvement in the assassination and warned that Lebanon could be plunged into a full-blown crisis should any of its members be implicated.
In an interview with the Arab daily Al-Hayat, Hariri said he was travelling to New York to meet with the king for a second time in a bid to boost the Saudi-Syrian efforts to defuse the crisis.
“I am going there to discuss ways of boosting the mediation efforts that are a guarantee to Lebanon’s stability,” Hariri was quoted as saying.
He revealed that Saudi-Syrian mediation had led to an agreement months ago but accused the Shi’ite militant movement Hezbollah of not living up to its end of the deal.
“Any commitment on my part will not be carried out until the other party (Hezbollah) implements what they agreed to,” the Premier told Al-Hayat.
Here is an article from Business Week on some of what is at stake (oil) in Sudan:
…On Jan. 9, about 3.9 million voters start a week of balloting to decide whether to remain part of Sudan or form the world’s newest nation, 54 years after Africa’s biggest country by area gained independence from the U.K. A majority and a 60 percent turnout are required for a valid result, which is scheduled to be announced Feb. 1.
A vote for independence will give the south control of about 80 percent of Sudan’s current oil production of 490,000 barrels a day, pumped mainly by China National Petroleum Corp. and Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd. Sudan’s output is close to a quarter of the volume produced by Nigeria, Africa’s top producer. Independence would be declared on July 9.
“The balance of resources and power will shift overnight,” Andrew Natsios, George W. Bush’s former special envoy to Sudan and now a professor at Georgetown University, said in a telephone interview from Washington.
The authorities in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, and in the south have pledged to ensure that oil production isn’t disrupted and to work out how to share oil revenue. About 8 million of Sudan’s 42 million people live in the southern region.
“They’ll put behind them the usual rhetoric of demonizing each other,” Fouad Hikmat, Sudan’s special adviser at the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, said in a Jan. 1 telephone interview from Khartoum. “I’m sure they will try to reach an agreement.”
While most of the oil is in the south, the export pipelines, the port and refineries are in the north.
With Southern Sudan depending on oil revenue for 98 percent of its budget, it has no interest in undermining crude exports, Southern Sudanese Energy Minister Garang Diing Akuong said in November in Juba, the region’s capital.
“We need cooperation between the north and the south so that the oil flows,” he said.
The vote is the centerpiece of a 2005 peace agreement ending a civil war that lasted almost 50 years, except for a cease-fire from 1972 to 1983, between the Muslim north and the south, where Christianity and traditional religions dominate. About 2 million people died in the second phase of the war.
Southern Sudanese overwhelmingly favor independence, according to an Oct. 20 study by the Washington-based National Democratic Institute, based on 63 focus groups surveyed in 48 locations last year.
An independent Southern Sudan would present foreign investors with “enormous opportunities,” Sebastian Spio- Garbrah, managing director of DaMina Advisors LLP, a New York- based research group, said in research note on Dec. 29. In addition to oil and gold, he said, the region is believed to have “abundant” deposits of minerals including marble, gypsum and chromite, which is used to make ferrochrome, an ingredient in stainless steel.
Southern Sudan would be free of the restrictions imposed on Sudan since 1997. The country has been classified by the U.S. as a sponsor of terrorism since 1993.
“Because Sudan has been under Western sanctions for more than a decade, many Eastern mining and energy firms have shied away from investing in the country,” Spio-Garbrah said.
If the referendum runs smoothly and the government accepts its results, U.S. President Barack Obama will begin formal steps to evaluate the current designation of Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry told reporters today in Khartoum.
If Sudan is lifted from the terrorism list, “it takes you to the next step, which is to consider some of the sanctions,” said Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat.
Besides the north-south peace process, resolving the seven- year conflict in Sudan’s western region of Darfur continues to be a key issue that would affect future relations between the two countries, the senator said. Kerry urged rebel groups to join peace talks, and for the government to cease hostilities by its army in the region.
The authorities in Juba are in talks with Toyota East Africa to construct an oil pipeline to Kenya’s Lamu port. The pipeline would take three to four years to complete, Akuong said.
“We are certain that an independent Southern Sudan will act as a positive force in the region, contributing to important regional and African objectives of peace, stability and development,” former South African President Thabo Mbeki said in a lecture at a cultural center today in Juba.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described north- south tensions as “a ticking time bomb” in a Sept. 8 speech at the Council on Foreign Relations. George Clooney has set up the Satellite Sentinel project using Google’s Map.Maker technology to monitor the border region. Aegis Trust, a London-based charity, said a return to war would cost more than $100 billion, about two-thirds of Sudan’s gross domestic product, in lost economic output and humanitarian and peacekeeping aid.
“A month ago we were much deeply concerned, but the recent developments have been very encouraging,” former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, whose Atlanta-based Carter Center is monitoring the vote, told reporters today in Khartoum.
Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir, in his last visit to Juba before the vote, pledged to respect the results of the referendum.
“If the south chooses independence, we will come and congratulate and celebrate with you,” he said on Jan. 4.
Al-Bashir’s government in Khartoum and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, which governs the south, would have to negotiate border demarcation, responsibility for the country’s $38 billion foreign debt and the status of Abyei, a disputed border region whose own plebiscite on whether to join the north or the south has been postponed indefinitely.
In other news …the Washington Post’s resident rightwing neocon hack, Jennifer Rubin, wrote last week about how Hillary Clinton is “utterly irrelevent” to the Mideast peace process and her elementary school analysis is a good lesson in how terrified some on the right (and sadly, many Democrats) are of having the US be an honest broker in the peace process and how afraid they are of actually having any administration successfully negotiate a viable solution to this decades-long conflict. The Rubin mindset is really why nothing ever changes. Jennifer Rubin started her hypocritical propagandizing over at the WaPo only about two months ago but so far she has made Secretary Clinton a frequent target of her ire and I suggest that people check out her blog regularly and correct her misinformation in the comment section. You know, to keep Rubin and the WaPo honest 😉
Also, this from Politico on Richard Holbrooke’s upcoming memorial service:
President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will speak at a memorial service Friday for Richard Holbrooke, the former special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, who died Dec. 13.
The service is at 3 p.m. in the Kennedy Center. An administraton official told POLITICO’s Mike Allen: “Invites went out formally this week but the planning started last month. … The media coverage is still being nailed down. A number of diplomatic figures are coming that represent different phases of his life.”
So, Secretary Clinton will be back in time for the memorial service on Friday.