British attempts to evacuate its embassy staff from Sudan at the weekend delayed efforts by other countries to rescue their own citizens, senior German political sources have told the BBC.
They allege British forces landed in Sudan without the Sudanese army’s permission – as other European nations were hoping to airlift citizens to safety.
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) described that as “complete nonsense”.
Germany, among others, had planned to use the airfield north of Khartoum from which subsequent evacuation operations have been conducted.
But, the sources say, the “unannounced British military presence” so angered the Sudanese army that they refused access to the facility.
According to one source, having landed without permission, the British had to pay the army before leaving.
And negotiations to use the airfield meant that German rescuers “lost at least half a day” during what was, at the time, considered to be a very small window of opportunity.
The MoD denied that it was responsible for any delay.
In a statement, it said: “It is not accurate to suggest that Britain’s efforts to evacuate embassy staff from Sudan last weekend slowed-down Germany’s plans.
“Operating in such complex circumstances will always come with challenges, but we have worked extremely closely with our French, US and particularly German partners who have facilitated access to the airfield throughout this week, and of course we remain grateful to the Sudanese Armed Forces.”
Later, an MoD spokesperson said it was “complete nonsense to claim that we landed in Sudan without permission from the Sudanese army. We had permission”.
Germany has now ended its rescue mission, after airlifting more than 700 people to safety on six flights from the airfield north of Khartoum which the UK is now using for its evacuation operation.
Around 200 of those taken to safety were German nationals and the rest were from 30 other nations, including the UK.
The relief and elation in Berlin that its operation concluded relatively successfully has assuaged the anger of defence officials, but military leaders are still said to be “not amused”.
Even Defence Minister Boris Pistorius couldn’t resist a barb.
When asked why the UK had managed to get its embassy staff out on Saturday, while German flights only started on Sunday, Mr Pistorius said: “How shall I put it diplomatically? They ignored what the Sudanese had stipulated.”
And, in Berlin, there are lingering traces of disdain for the UK government’s initial handling of the crisis.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock may not have mentioned the UK by name but launched a thinly disguised attack on countries that, she implied, had abandoned their citizens and focused their rescue efforts only on diplomatic staff.
“It was important to us that the [German] evacuation, unlike other countries, didn’t just involve our diplomatic personnel but all Germans on the ground and their partners.”
Source : BBC