Arab Role Tested in Sudan’s Interest Conflict


Although Russia and China have both considerable interests and influence in Sudan, it will more likely be Saudi Arabia and the UAE who hold the keys for peace


Western reports indicate a clash of interests between China and Russia in Sudan, with the interests of the two allied nations seemingly at odds in the country.

China is pursuing greater influence in Africa through geopolitical, economic, and trade initiatives, whereas Russia is leveraging its historical ties with Sudan during the Bashir era and relies on the activities of the Wagner paramilitary group, which has established a presence in multiple African countries and positions itself as a counterbalance to traditional French influence, both within traditional alliances and in cooperation with countries battling terrorist organizations that are proliferating in several regions of the continent.

Russia maintains strong relationships with both sides of the Sudanese conflict, as evidenced by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s meetings with both Burhan and Hemeti during his African tour in February of last year. There are reports of cooperation in the mining and gold prospecting sector, as well as plans to establish a Russian naval base on the shores of the Red Sea.

influence in Sudan

Sudan is an essential battleground for regional and international dominance and influence, and China is its second-largest trading partner. The American-Chinese-Russian triangle holds significant strategic ambitions for this Arab country, and the ongoing conflict in Sudan undoubtedly presents a prime opportunity for the United States to enhance its influence in Africa within the context of the struggle for dominance against its strategic rivals.

The United States played an active role in the recent ceasefire agreement and is intensively communicating with the crisis’s parties, Burhan and Hemeti. It will surely strive to secure and safeguard its interests while limiting particularly Russia’s ability to infiltrate Africa through the Sudanese gateway.

China seems to be taking a cautious approach and closely monitoring the impact of the Belt and Road Initiative, which encompasses nearly all African nations. As China aims to elevate its international standing, Africa has become an increasingly critical battleground for competition, with Beijing financing energy projects and investments across numerous African countries.

READ: Hafed Al-Ghwell: What Sudan crisis means for Libya

According to American research estimates, Chinese investments in energy infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa have skyrocketed by tenfold over the past decade, reaching approximately $15 billion. In contrast, American companies have only signed contracts to supply electric power with three African nations, while Chinese companies have signed contracts with 15. The Atlantic Council estimates that China’s investments in Africa total around $54 billion, a figure exceeding the total investments of the World Bank, estimated at around $34 billion.

The situation in Sudan is undoubtedly a critical test for Arab diplomacy, particularly for Saudi Arabia and the UAE in collaboration and coordination with Egypt. These three parties must work together to de-escalate and resolve Arab crises in recent years quickly.

It may be vital for these countries to contain the Sudanese crisis before it worsens and becomes another chronic Arab crisis, given the direct geopolitical impact of the security situation in Sudan on both Egypt and Saudi Arabia. They must ensure the security of navigation in the Red Sea and the absence of military conflicts on the opposite shore.

As Saudi Arabia seeks to end the Yemeni crisis and has successfully eased tensions with Iran, it has turned towards opening a new chapter in its relationship with Syria.

Given Riyadh’s robust relationships with regional and international actors like Egypt, the UAE, Turkey, the United States, China and Russia, the Kingdom may have a significant stake in curbing the escalation of the Sudanese conflict.

Salem AlKetbi is an UAE political analyst and former Federal National Council candidate


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