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Sticking up for al-Bashir?

No one is saying who lost the game of chicken, but it was probably Turkey.

What is certain is that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, indicted by the International Criminal Court, has pulled out of an Islamic summit in Istanbul.

Until the last minute Turkey, which has deepened economic ties with Sudan, had made it clear that it welcomed the attendance of al-Bashir at the meeting, despite the international warrant for his arrest on war crimes charges. Turkey has not ratified the statute that established the ICC and had said it had no plans to arrest al-Bashir.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also downplayed accusations against al-Bashir, saying: “A Muslim can never commit genocide.”

Western governments have been careful not to challenge Turkey too directly but it is likely that quiet pressure from the U.S. and the EU helped to change Turkey's mind over al-Bashir. International human rights organizations have also urged Turkey repeatedly to arrest al-Bashir if he arrived in Istanbul

The ICC has indicted al-Bashir on charges of masterminding a campaign of rape, murder and other crimes in Sudan's Darfur region – a charge al-Bashir has repeatedly denied. The United Nations says as many as 300,000 people have been killed since conflict erupted in Darfur in 2003.

International Crisis Group analyst Fouad Hikmat said the decision showed how much the ICC warrant had hindered al-Bashir's movements.

"I don't think he'll be able to venture out beyond the immediate neighborhood, or maybe the Gulf. His people don't want to take any risks. Once he's in international airspace, he is in no man's land," he told Reuters.