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President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan has been warned to be wary of being arrested if he goes ahead with his planned trip to attend the Turkish-African heads of state summit in Istanbul this week.
The two-day summit starts on 19 August. The risky trip will be Mr. al-Bachir's first abroad trip since he has been indicted for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Sudan's Darfur region by the International Criminal Court (ICC).As a member of NATO, Turkey is yet to ratify the treaty that established the ICC.
According to an unnamed European diplomat, it would be "very risky" for the Sudanese leader to travel to Turkey.
"The whole world knows al-Bachir as a risk-taker," the diplomat said, adding that "traveling to Turkey in the face of ongoing ICC arrest warrant being issued while he is in Istanbul, could be one of the greatest risks he has ever taken in life."
ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo had issued an arrest warrant against President al-Bachir, accusing his regime of killing thousands of innocent people in Darfur.
Human rights groups welcomed the move, but continental and regional bodies said the warrant would derail the ongoing peace process in the country.
Mr. Morenco-Occampo did not give up in his efforts to galvanise support from African leaders on gross violations of human rights in Darfur as evidenced by his visit to Senegal last week.
Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Ministry has confirmed that President al-Bachir will arrive in Istanbul on Monday.
Turkish officials said the Sudanese leader was invited to the summit and that they did not value the arrest warrant against him. President al-Bachir is expected to hold bilateral meetings with his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the Africa-Turkey economic summit.
In a statement, the New York-based Human Rights Watch asked the Turkish government to "reject efforts by Sudan's President to secure a suspension of the ICC investigation against him. Turkey should also convey a clear message that Khartoum must not respond to the investigation with retaliation against civilians, peacekeepers, or humanitarian workers."
The Istanbul summit will be graced by leaders from 40 African countries. Turkey aims to emulate China and India to tap into Africa's natural resources as well as boost its presence on the continent.
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