US expected to end sanctions on Sudan Trump administration
Oct. 5. 2017 -
US president Donald Trump is expected to revoke longstanding sanctions on Sudan ahead of an October 12 deadline after the north African country ended ties with North Korea, according to people briefed on the matter.
The Trump administration had delayed a decision in July over whether to lift sanctions permanently on Sudan amid a dearth of Africa appointments in key US departments and fears of a public backlash over going soft on the country, whose president is accused of genocide. But senior officials from Sudan and the US have ironed out their differences in a series of bilateral meetings, including over cutting support for North Korea, according to three people briefed on the matter.
The state department’s expected recommendation to permanently remove sanctions is opposed by various human rights groups, whose efforts to unite against the move may cause the administration to bring the decision forward. “We expect good news,” Ibrahim Ghandour, Sudan foreign minister, told the Financial Times.
He said a five-track plan initiated under the Obama administration, which temporarily suspended sanctions that prohibit transactions between US entities and Sudan, had been fulfilled.
“Both sides agreed that the delivery of the plan was excellent and so this is why we expect a positive outcome,” Mr Ghandour said. The plan covered issues including counterterrorism co-operation, ending domestic hostilities and improving humanitarian access. But chief among US concerns of late was suspected Sudanese support for North Korea.
The US is pushing to limit foreign engagement with North Korea as it attempts to starve Pyongyang of hard currency in a bid to curtail its nuclear ambitions and force it into negotiations. “There were concerns over the North Koreans but now the administration is quite convinced that we don’t have any relations with North Korea whatsoever,” said Mr Ghandour.
Sudan submitted a letter to the US showing that it had informed Pyongyang it was cutting ties. It also passed on information about bank accounts held by North Korean fronts, including names and amounts, according to a person briefed on the letter.
“The Sudanese have been pulling out the stops and they were very co-operative,” the person said. John Sullivan, deputy secretary of state who is leading the drive to shut down North Korea’s overseas operations, met Mr Ghandour in Washington and New York last month.
Last week, the US dropped Sudan from its list of seven countries subject to travel restrictions due to terror concerns. Members of the Central Intelligence Agency also attended a continent-wide intelligence conference in the capital Khartoum last week.
Sudan’s intelligence agency, NISS, has worked closely on counterterrorism initiatives with the CIA for years. In March, newly appointed CIA chief Mike Pompeo invited Sudan’s intelligence chief, Mohamed Atta, to the US on his first official visit.
Sudan, a largely Arab country ruled by an authoritarian Islamist regime, was first labelled a state sponsor of terrorism in 1993, a designation it still shares with Iran and Syria. At the time, it hosted Osama bin Laden in Khartoum.
Sudan expelled bin Laden at America’s request in 1996, but remained subject to sanctions. More recently it has worked with the US to stem the extremist threat in Libya. “Libya and what is going on there has been the source of many evils and spillover from extremism can affect all the Sahel to the coast of west Africa,” said Mr Ghandour. “Sudan has been working hard to prevent such spillovers and side-effects of what is going on in Libya.
” Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir, an army colonel who took power during a 1989 Islamist coup, is separately accused of genocide and other crimes in his own country. He has evaded arrest and trial at the International Criminal Court for seven years. Campaigners warn that Sudan still pursues marginalised groups.
Omer Ismail, senior adviser at the Enough Project, a campaign group, said Sudan’s compliance with the five tracks is only “superficial” and called for negotiations to lead to a permanent ceasefire among warring groups in Sudan. The US state department and National Security Council declined to comment.