The top US envoy in Sudan said yesterday that conditions have to be “right” for holding talks with Khartoum on removing it from Washington’s blacklist of state sponsors of “terrorism”.
US charge d’affaires to Khartoum Steven Koutsis’ remarks came a day after Washington ended its 20-year-old trade embargo on the east African country. However, the US did not drop Sudan from the blacklist, a consistent demand by Khartoum in return for co-operating with US intelligence agencies in fighting “terrorism”.
“This is something that both sides are keenly willing to discuss, but we have to be certain that conditions are right for discussions to remove (Sudan) from the list,” Koutsis said at a press conference at the US mission in Khartoum.
“The government of Sudan knows fully well what it needs to do to remove from the list and we hope that those conditions will come soon,” he said, without elaborating on what the conditions were. On Friday, Khartoum hailed Washington’s decision to end the sanctions as a “positive decision”, but expressed disappointment at not being removed from the blacklist.
“Discussion on removing from the state sponsors of terror was not part of our engagement under the five-track plan,” Koutsis said, referring to the five conditions that Washington had insisted that Khartoum meet in return for ending the trade embargo. “If you are talking about a dialogue on this issue it has not happened yet.”
Khartoum insists that there is “no reason” for it to be on the blacklist as it has co-operated with US intelligence agencies in fighting “terrorism” in the region, a claim acknowledged even by the US State Department.
Sudanese officials say that having Khartoum on this list along with Syria and Iran makes it difficult to seek foreign debt relief, which has been a factor in hampering the country’s economic growth. Following a significant improvement in relations, former US president Barack Obama eased the sanctions in January before leaving office with a view to lifting them completely after a six-month review. But in July, President Donald Trump extended the review period to October 12.
On Friday, his administration decided to lift the embargo permanently. With the embargo lifted, Koutsis said he expected increased interest from American companies on doing business in Sudan.
“But of course businesses will make business decisions based on entire level of risk involved, and they will be looking at other aspects of potential investment in Sudan,” he said.
Washington’s financial sanctions had put restrictions on international banking transactions, exchange of technology and spare parts.
Combined with other cumbersome trade regulations, they hampered Sudan’s economic growth. Koutsis said that “legal impediments” that previously prevented such transactions have now been removed with the lifting of the embargo.
Top US envoy in Khartoum, Charge D’affaires Steven Koutsis, speaks during a press conference at the US embassy yesterday.