Sudan Crisis: The UK was accused of delaying German evacuation efforts

  • by Jenny Hill
  • BBC Berlin correspondent

image source, Getty Images

German political sources told the BBC that British attempts to evacuate its embassy staff from Sudan over the weekend delayed efforts by other countries to rescue their citizens.

They claimed that British forces had landed in Sudan without the permission of the Sudanese army – as other European countries had hoped to fly their citizens to safety.

Germany, among others, planned to use the airport north of Khartoum from which subsequent evacuations were conducted.

But the sources say that the “undeclared British military presence” angered the Sudanese army so much that it refused to enter the facility.

According to one source, having landed without permission, the British had to pay the army before leaving.

Negotiations over the use of the airfield meant that the German rescuers “lost at least half a day” during what was, at the time, considered a very small opportunity.

The UK Ministry of Defense denied responsibility for any delay.

A spokesperson said in a statement: “It is not accurate to suggest that Britain’s efforts to evacuate embassy staff from Sudan at the end of last week slowed Germany’s plans.

“Working in such complex circumstances will always come with challenges, but we have worked very closely with our French, American and German partners in particular who have facilitated access to the airport throughout this week, and of course we remain grateful to the Sudanese Armed Forces.”

About 200 of those brought to safety were German nationals and the rest were from 30 other countries, including the UK.

The relief and elation in Berlin that its operation had concluded with relative success assuaged the ire of defense officials, but military leaders were still said to be “not amused”.

Even Defense Minister Boris Pistorius couldn’t resist a thorn.

Asked why the UK was able to remove its embassy staff on Saturday, while German flights only started on Sunday, Mr Pistorius said: “How would I describe it diplomatically? They ignored what the Sudanese stipulated.”

And in Berlin, there are lingering traces of disdain for the UK government’s initial handling of the crisis.

German Foreign Minister Annalina Berbock may not have mentioned the United Kingdom by name but she has launched a disguised attack on countries that, as she points out, have abandoned their own citizens and focused rescue efforts solely on diplomatic personnel.

“It was important to us that [German] The evacuation, unlike other countries, not only of our diplomatic staff, but of all Germans on the ground and their accomplices.

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