|Istanbul hosts the first Turkey-Africa Cooperation Summit on Monday with the participation of heads of state and government, and foreign ministers from about 50 African countries, including Sudan's controversial President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. (UPDATED)
This would be al-Bashir's first trip abroad since the International Criminal Court (ICC) moved to indict him for genocide in Darfur.
The Turkey-Africa Cooperation Summit hosted by Turkish President Abdullah Gul began in Istanbul on Monday with a meeting of high-level officials.
A meeting of foreign ministers attending the summit will also be held on Monday.
Presidents from six countries, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Guinea-Bissau, Comoros, Mali ve Sudan; and six prime ministers from Ethiopia, Morocco, Niger, Togo, Rwanda and Uganda will attend the summit which will officially start on Tuesday.
The summit, which will be held under the banner of "Solidarity and Cooperation for a Common Future," will also host representatives from around 20 international bodies such as the U.N., African Development Bank, and the Arab League.
The three-day summit will be officially launched on Tuesday with the participation of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.
On the sidelines of the summit a Turkish-African Business Forum is also being held.
The Istanbul summit will try to seek ways to improve Turkey's relations with African countries and develop a sustainable cooperation path.
ICC RECESS MIGHT SAVE BASHIR
Officials at the embassy and consulate of Sudan told the AP that al-Bashir was to arrive in Istanbul late on Monday.
ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has asked the court to issue an arrest warrant for al-Bashir on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, saying his state apparatus had killed 35,000 people and indirectly at least another 100,000.
Sources told hurriyet.com.tr it is very unlikely that an ICC arrest warrant could be issued while Bashir is in Istanbul, as the court has been in recess until Aug. 18. ICC judges could take weeks or months to issue a warrant, they added.
Al-Bashir has said Sudan does not recognize the court in The Hague, Netherlands, and will never cooperate with it.
NATO-member Turkey has not ratified the treaty forming the ICC, but was under pressure to become a member as part of negotiations to join the European Union.
International experts estimate some 200,000 people died and 2.5 million were driven from their homes when mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in early 2003 accusing the central government in Khartoum of neglect.
Sudan blames the Western media for exaggerating the conflict and puts the death toll at 10,000.
LETTER FROM RIGHTS GROUP
U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said it has sent a letter to Turkey voicing its concern that it has chosen to welcome Beshir at this time and urged Ankara to reject any effort to suspend the investigation.
"The Sudanese government remains responsible for massive atrocities in Darfur," charged Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
"To suspend the ICC investigation in response to Khartoums outrageous threats and empty promises would be to betray the victims in Darfur," she said in a statement.
"There has been no improvement in the situation on the ground in Darfur, nor in the behavior of the Sudanese government, that would in any way justify such a suspension at this time," the group said.