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Darfur Prime Topic at Turkey-Africa Summit

The Turkish city of Istanbul has hosted Turkey's first African cooperation summit. The meeting is aimed at developing greater political and economic ties between Turkey and Africa. Among those attending was the President of Sudan, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. As Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul, Turkey's president used the occasion to urge his Sudanese counterpart to end the suffering in Sudan's troubled Darfur region.

Addressing representatives from 50 African countries, Turkish president Abdullah Gul described the meeting as a landmark event.

Mr. Gul said the summit was held based on the idea that the success of Africa would be the success of humanity.

In a declaration at the end of the meeting, the summit participants committed themselves to boost peace, security and cooperation by complying with the principles of international law, democracy, human rights and social justice.

Human rights issues overshadowed here, because of Turkey's decision to host Sudan's President Omar al Bashir. Rights groups have been critical of his invitation to the summit.

The Sudanese and Turkish leaders held extensive bi-lateral talks on the fringe of the summit. After the private meeting President Gul said he told President Bashir that his government should "work hard" to end the violence in Darfur region of his country.

According to a Sudanese official, a major new initiative to resolve the Darfur conflict will be announced in the coming days.

President Bashir has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity in the Darfur. The trip to Turkey is the Sudanese President's first visit outside of Sudan since the indictment.

Sudan's ambassador to the United Nations, Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem, who attended the conference, dismissed the indictment

"The whole world condemned it, the non aligned condemned, the African union, African league, Islamic countries the whole world condemning it," said Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem. "It's politically motivated, we will not show any respect to this, our president will travel and travel and travel, and he will come to Turkey not only this time but later on also, whenever he is invited."

At a joint news conference with President al Bashir sitting at his side President Gul emphasized the links between the two countries.

Mr. Gul said Sudan and Turkey have strong historical ties and the two peoples are good friends. He said the two countries are looking forward to deepening the relations both politically and economically.

The Istanbul meeting, attended by officials from some 50 countries is part of Turkey's efforts to develop closer economic and diplomatic ties with African nations. Turkey is seeking African support for its bid for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.