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Sudan's Leader Agrees to Host Russian Naval Base on Red Sea

Parliamentary approval is required, and Sudan will need to form a civilian parliament first

Port Sudan
Port Sudan (file image)

Published Feb 12, 2023 7:38 PM by The Maritime Executive

Sudan to Finalize Review of Russia’s Red Sea Naval Base Deal

Following the visit of Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov in Sudan last week, Moscow and Khartoum have finalized the terms of an agreement on establishing a logistical center for the Russian Navy in Sudan. The news was confirmed during a joint press conference between Lavrov and his Sudanese counterpart Ali al-Sadiq Ali.

Lavrov had earlier met with Sudan’s ruling military leaders Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the de facto head of state of Sudan, and his deputy Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo. The meeting agenda was reportedly on Russia providing Sudan with weapons in return for a Red Sea Navy base. Lavrov last visited Sudan in 2014 and this was his second visit to Africa this year.

Lavrov vowed to support Sudan’s efforts in lifting the UN arms embargo on the Darfur region. He also pledged further economic cooperation Russia and Sudan. The Kremlin-linked Wagner Group is said to have privileged access to Sudan’s lucrative gold mining industry.

Russia’s naval base deal in Sudan has been in the works since 2019, when the two countries signed an agreement granting the Russian Navy access to Sudanese ports. However, the agreement was made public in 2021, with Sudan’s Chief General of Staff, Gen. Mohammed Othman al-Hussein telling local media that Khartoum would review the agreement.

“This deal was signed under the former National Salvation Government and we are negotiating a possible review, to ensure that our interests and profits are taken into account,” Gen. Othman said at the time.

The deal was derailed after a military coup in October 2021. In addition, Sudan has been without a parliament since 2019 after a popular uprising led to military overthrow of longtime autocrat Omar al Bashir. Parliamentary approval is needed to ratify the naval base agreement, Sudanese military leaders noted.

The deal would allow Russia to set up a naval base with up to 300 Russian troops and up to four navy ships - including nuclear-powered ones - in the strategic Port of Sudan.

The base would ensure a permanent presence of the Russian navy in the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, and it would spare its ships long voyages to reach the area. The new base would expand on the power-projection support provided by the Russian naval facility in Tartus, Syria.