First Published: 2017-07-14

Sudan to push for full lifting of US sanctions
Sudan says it will press on with efforts to achieve full lifting of US sanctions as Washington opts to extend decades-old trade embargo.
Middle East Online

Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour attempted to rein in the rising tension

Sudan said Thursday it would press on with efforts to achieve a full lifting of US sanctions against Khartoum, even as it hoped Washington would reverse its decision to extend a decades-old trade embargo.

On Tuesday, US President Donald Trump prolonged a review period to October 12 before his administration decides whether or not to permanently lift the sanctions imposed in 1997.

His predecessor Barack Obama had eased the measures in January, but kept Sudan on review for six months, a period that ended on Wednesday.

Trump's order to extend the review period angered his Sudanese counterpart President Omar al-Bashir who ordered Khartoum to halt ongoing talks with Washington over sanctions until October 12.

Bashir's National Congress Party also warned on Thursday that any unrest that erupts in Sudan will be because of the US extension.

Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour, however, attempted to rein in the rising tension, vowing that Khartoum will work with Washington to ensure the embargo is fully lifted.

"We hope that the United States reverses its decision and sticks to its commitments," Ghandour told reporters.

"We will not be aggressive and we will not go out on the streets."

The Sudanese foreign and defence ministries will "continue communicating" with US officials to ensure the sanctions are lifted, he said.

Sudan's powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) will also continue communicating with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), he said.

- Not a small regional player -

Obama had made the permanent lifting of the sanctions dependent on Sudan's progress in five areas of concern at the end of the review period.

Those include giving more access to humanitarian workers in war zones, counterterrorism cooperation with the United States, an end to hostilities against armed groups in Sudan and halting support for insurgents in neighbouring South Sudan.

In his executive order, Trump extended the deadline by three months, saying "more time is needed" to review Khartoum's progress on the five conditions.

In recent months, several US and Sudanese officials have said that there was progress on meeting Obama's conditions, also known as "five tracks".

Ghandour said Khartoum had in fact gone "too far" in engaging with Washington.

"Which is why what has been positively achieved, we will build on it without jeopardising or endangering our sovereignty," he said.

He said that Washington should realise that Sudan was "important for peace and security" in the region. "We are not a small regional power," the minister said.

- US security warning -

Later on Thursday the US embassy in Khartoum issued a security warning to all American citizens in Sudan, urging them to "remain at home" on Friday.

"Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence," the embassy said on its website.

"You should avoid areas of demonstrations, and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations."

No Sudanese group had so far urged protests or demonstrations on Friday against the US extension of sanctions.

Washington imposed a complex set of economic sanctions on Sudan in 1997 for its alleged backing of Islamist militant groups.

Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who was killed in a US commando raid in Pakistan in 2011, was based in Khartoum from 1992 to 1996.

Washington has also pointed to accusations of scorched-earth tactics by Khartoum against ethnic minority rebels in war-torn Darfur.

At least 300,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced since the Darfur conflict erupted in 2003, the UN says.

Bashir himself is wanted for genocide and war crimes related to the conflict in Darfur, charges he steadfastly denies.

Some campaign groups had called on the Trump administration to maintain the sanctions on Sudan, citing Khartoum's record of human rights violations.

 

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