As leaders of Islamic countries assembled to come up with a unified response to the U.S. move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in an emergency summit in Istanbul on Wednesday, the presence of some controversial figures baffled observers.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted on charges of genocide and war crimes, attended the summit of Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
Bashir was among leaders who responded to a call by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to attend the meeting after US President Donald Trump outraged the Islamic world with his recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Images showed Mr. Bashir warmly greeted by hosting President Erdogan and then attending the family photo and summit plenary session in traditional dress.
Sudan’s deadly conflict in Darfur broke out in 2003 when ethnic minority groups took up arms against Bashir’s Arab-dominated government, which launched a brutal counter-insurgency.
The U.N. says at least 300,000 people have been killed and more than 2.5 million displaced as a result of the conflict.
Top Sudanese officials including Mr. Bashir now claim that the conflict has ended, but the region continues to see regular fighting between numerous ethnic and tribal groups.
President Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for genocide and war crimes related to the conflict, charges he denies.
The Turkish leader had, while serving as prime minister in November 2009, defended Sudan’s Bashir against the charges, saying “a Muslim could not commit genocide, he is not capable of it.”
However, Mr. Bashir scrapped a plan that month to attend an OIC meeting in Turkey after the EU pressured Ankara over his attendance.
Turkey at the time pointed out it is not a signatory to the treaty, which set up the Hague-based ICC.
Wednesday’s meeting is the first time that Mr. Bashir has visited Turkey since that controversy, and there have been no reports of such pressure concerning his current appearance.
President Bashir most recently visited Russia on November 23 where he held talks with President Vladimir Putin.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Jordanian King Abdullah II and Lebanese President Michel Aoun are among the heads of state attending the emergency summit in Istanbul, as well as the emirs of Qatar and Kuwait and presidents of Afghanistan and Indonesia.
A surprise guest was Venezuela’s leftist President Nicolas Maduro whose country has no significant Muslim population but is a bitter critic of U.S. policy.