Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir, who was scheduled to attend the Africa-EU summit in Libya, decided a no-show would be more prudent.
The talks to seal a “new, equal” partnership between Africa and Europe were boycotted by Sudan due to the exclusion of its president who faces an international arrest warrant.
Al-Bashir, who announced yesterday he was going to attend, blamed his absence on Europe which is in a faceoff with Africa over trade and immigration issues while attempting to overcome the burden of history in a new partnership of “equals”.
Khartoum's Foreign Minister Ali Ahmad Karti said his president's no-show was "to avoid embarrassment to Libya" and was taken "under pressure from Europe".
Concerns that Bashir, a leader wanted by the International Criminal Court would join the gathering of 80 nations, had worried some nations, diplomatic sources from both continents said.
Africa gave signs of going its own independent way as 53 foreign ministers rejected an EU offer of a joint statement on climate change.
"The declaration was rejected as it reflected European rather than African priorities," one African diplomat told AFP. But when asked to comment, an EU diplomat said "it's not over" and that further efforts would be made at the summit to find common ground.
Notable summit absentees include the European Union's "big three" – British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel – although the Sudan issue was never publicly cited.
Bashir was indicted in March 2009 for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity, and in July 2010 on charges of genocide, linked to atrocities committed by Khartoum's forces in Darfur.
In a statement, Bashir accused Europeans of "hypocrisy" for urging him to implement Sudan's 2005 north-south peace accord while attacking his legitimacy.
Europe's stand was "an attack on the African Union and Sudan while also undermining the idea of real dialogue and cooperation between Africa and Europe," the Sudanese leader said on Sunday.
Africa's leading aid donor, the 27-nation EU remains its top trading partner but risks being elbowed aside as Brazil, India and other emerging giants join China in chasing the spoils of the resource-rich continent.
Meanwhile, African leaders, frustrated after almost a decade of failed efforts to seal trade deals with the European Union, begin the summit determined to air their grievances.