By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
KHARTOUM, SUDAN — Russia plans to strengthen its military ties with Khartoum, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday during a visit to internationally isolated and sanctions-hit Sudan.
“We have a project and a plan to develop military cooperation in a way that will not disturb the balance of power in the region,” Lavrov said at a news conference after meeting his Sudanese counterpart Ali Karti.
Lavrov arrived in Khartoum late on Tuesday, and is also due to meet President Omar al-Bashir before attending a forum on cooperation between Russia and the Arab League later on Wednesday.
Sudan’s economy has been badly hit by a US trade embargo since 1997 over allegations including rights abuses, and Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in the country’s western region of Darfur.
Lavrov gave no further details of the cooperation, but Karti said they also discussed Russian companies that have applied for oil and gas exploration permits.
Sudan’s split from the South in 2011 under a peace deal that ended 22 years of civil war saw it lose much of its oil production, and South Kordofan state is now the country’s main oil-producing region.
However, tribal conflicts in the area and an insurgency by ethnic rebels have made exploration difficult.
Sanctions on Sudan have badly affected its economy, and Khartoum has launched efforts over the past two months aimed at ending its isolation.
In October, Bashir visited regional powers Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and on Thursday Khartoum will host a meeting of foreign ministers from countries neighboring Libya to try to thrash out a solution to the conflict plaguing the North African nation.