By Abdullah Uluyurt
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Hakan Cavusoglu, who is on a two-day official visit to Khartoum, met Sudanese Prime Minister Bakri Hassan Saleh on Tuesday.
Cavusoglu described the meeting with the Sudanese premier as “very positive” and said relations have gained momentum following President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to the country last December.
“We will continue work to enhance bilateral relations,” Cavusoglu told reporters following the meeting. “This visit aims to realize the decisions taken [during Erdogan’s visit].”
In regards to Suakin island, which is being restored by a Turkish-state-run agency, he said that Turkey’s goal was to turn the island into a “center of attraction.”
During Erdogan’s visit to the country, Sudan agreed to hand over the northeastern Suakin island temporarily to Turkey for rebuilding.
“A 20-people-TIKA team [Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency] recently went to the island and determined what kind of way should be followed. Suakin island cannot be used for military purposes due to its position.”
“Our aim is only to make it [the island] a center of attraction,” he added.
Last month, Turkey’s state-run aid agency TIKA has started to renovate the island, according to the agency.
With their joint project, Sudan and Turkey aim to turn the island into a culture and tourism center.
The island’s Ottoman-era Hanafi and Shafi’i mosques, and an old customs building will be restored by the agency, said the statement.
In the past, Suakin, one of the oldest seaports in Africa, was used by African Muslims on pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia.
Ottomans used the port city to secure the Hejaz province -- present-day western Saudi Arabia -- from attackers using the Red Sea front.
The deputy PM also thanked Sudanese people, who have given moral support to the ongoing Operation Olive Branch in Syria’s northwestern region of Afrin.
On Jan. 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to clear YPG/PKK-Daesh terrorists from Afrin.
According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as protect Syrians from oppression and cruelty of terrorists.
Later in the day, Cavusoglu visited the palace of Sultan Ali Dinar in Darfur in western Sudan -- a World Heritage Site listed by UNESCO last May. The palace was restored by the Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA).
The Turkish deputy PM also joined a food-aid distribution event for 2,500 families in Al-Fashir, a large town in North Darfur of northwestern Sudan.
Cavusoglu said aid programs to Sudan will continue.