First Published: 2017-07-12

Sudan's Bashir suspends sanctions talks with US
Sudanese President suspends negotiations after US President Trump signed executive order extending deadline for permanent lifting of decades-old sanctions.
Middle East Online

Washington facing mounting pressure to maintain sanctions on Sudan

WASHINGTON D.C. - Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on Wednesday suspended negotiations with the United States on ending decades-old sanctions against Khartoum after Washington extended the embargo by three months, state media reported.

"President of the republic Omar al-Bashir issued a presidential decree ordering the suspension of the committee that was negotiating with the United States" over the lifting of sanctions, the official news agency SUNA reported quoting a presidential decree issued by Bashir.

The committee has been negotiating for more than a year with US officials for lifting the trade embargo imposed by Washington on Khartoum since 1997.

Sudan had voiced regret earlier on Wednesday over the US decision to keep sanctions in place for another three months, but expressed hopes the punitive measures will still be lifted soon.

US President Donald Trump extended a review period overnight to October 12, 2017 before it makes a decision on whether or not to permanently lift the decades-old sanctions.

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

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

In his executive order issued on Tuesday, Trump extended the deadline, saying "more time is needed" for review.

Khartoum expressed disappointment.

"We regret such a decision that came out after long negotiations between Sudan and the United States," said Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour.

"The United States, Europe, Africa and the international community admit that Sudan has fulfilled its commitments when it comes to the five tracks, which is why we don't see any reason for extending the review period," he told reporters.

"But we are still hoping that the sanctions will be lifted permanently."

The areas of concern -- or "five tracks" -- 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.

"I have decided more time is needed for this review to establish that the government of Sudan has demonstrated sufficient positive action across all of those areas," Trump's order said, adding that "the government of Sudan has made some progress".

- 'Smart' sanctions recommended -

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 also justified the embargo with 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.

President Omar al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide and war crimes related to the conflict, charges he steadfastly denies.

The UN said it had hoped the United States would make a "positive decision" on the sanctions against Sudan for allowing more humanitarian aid access across war zones as sought.

But some think-tanks had called for the review period to be extended, saying Khartoum needed to do more for the embargo to be lifted.

The Enough Project, a Washington-based think-tank, said the Trump administration should now devise a new set of "smart and modernised" sanctions that would spare the Sudanese people.

They should "target those who are most responsible for grand corruption and atrocities, including air strikes on villages, attacks on churches, obstruction of humanitarian aid, jailing and torturing opposition figures and civil society leaders, stealing elections, and undermining peace efforts", said John Prendergast, founding director of Enough Project.

 

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