U.S. Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Counter Threat Finance and Sanctions, Sandra Oudkirk, on Monday held a press conference at the U.S. embassy in Khartoum to discuss the recent lifting of economic sanctions in Sudan and to encourage the continuing of the positive engagement between Sudan and the US.
Visiting Sudan from 28 to 30 October, she held a series of meetings with prominent figures.
Oudkirk said, ”We saw that the government was committed to taking a lot of decisions that were actually quite difficult. This wasn’t an easy process but it was a successful process.”
”We have a lot of work to do to ensure that we exchange the right experiences. Experiences that are positive, that are mutually supported. Because it’s going to be very new and so we need to work hard to make sure that the first experiences of Americans that come to Sudan are positive, so companies that enter the Sudanese markets early need good partners, and have a good experience working with the government, getting a business license, purchasing properties, and opening a bank account,” Oudkirk explained.
The US State Department official said she also hopes that the Sudanese people when they interact with the United States, that they also have a positive experience, that they see what the United States has to offer and that they come back excited and happy and wanting to do more. ”I think that it’s the obligation of both countries to ensure that the experiences are positive.”
”Over the course of the last several months, while I was traveling in Europe (…) and I have had governments tell me that there are small and medium enterprises are interested in greater engagement in Sudan, and I think that’s a very positive note,” she adds.
During the press conference in answer to an SMC question about the support the US is providing to Sudan, which is hosting refugees from a number of places including Yemen, Syria and South Sudan, Erv Massinga Deputy Chief of Mission said, ”The Sudanese government and Sudanese people should be very proud of themselves for their generosity and taking in so many people from countries where they are suffering so much,. The US is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with the international community and Sudan in helping those refugees.” Adding that, the US supports the UN structures that work with the refugee community directly.
US New Approach
Oudkirk also said her visit comes within the framework of the new approach in the U.S. policy towards Sudan following the lift of the economic embargo, according to a press release from Sudan’s Foreign Ministry earlier in the week.
According to the release, the U.S. official expressed US governments full readiness to broaden horizons of economic and trade cooperation between the two countries to serve and push forward the joint interests. Sudan is committed to continue the constructive cooperation with Washington at all bilateral levels.
Earlier in the week, Oudkirk met with Sudan’s Finance Minister Mohamed Osman al-Rikabi, the governor of the Central Bank of SudanHazim Abdel-Gadir and the Minister of Agriculture Ibrahim Al Dikhairi. She said her meetings with the Sudanese officials were fruitful, adding they discussed the post-sanctions era and ways to attract U.S. companies to invest in Sudan.
Commenting on whether there would be competition between to US and the China, she said, “The American and Chinese economic model are very different.”
”We have been seeing Sudanese Gum Arabic on the US market for a long time but we hope to see other Sudanese products in the US. I think this is a bilateral opening, there are a lot of opportunities for all of us,” she said.
Human Rights Improving
According to the US State Department report, ”the Sudanese government has sustained positive actions in maintaining a cessation of hostilities in conflict areas in Sudan by refraining from military offensives during the reporting period.”
Further President Al Bashir in July had issued a decree to extend the unilateral cessation of hostilities in war zones until October following which he then prolonged the current unilateral ceasefire to the 31 December.
The decree said the extension is aimed to prepare the climate for the coming negotiations on the Two Areas (South Kordofan and Blue Nile), “within the framework of the keenness of the government of the Sudan for achieving peace and stability in the country and to devote all energies for development challenges,” said the Sudanese government.
Sudan’s Ministry said Khartoum is strongly seeking to improve the human rights situation due to its impact on Sudan’s foreign relations. Sudan and the European Union (EU) Sunday had organized a symposium in Khartoum under the title “Sudanese-European Relations in the Field of Education and Scientific Research.”
The symposium was addressed by the head of the EU Delegation to Sudan, Jean-Michel Dumond, and the Director of the European and American Department at Sudan’s Foreign Ministry Mohamed Issa Idam and a number of officials. In his address before the symposium, Idam said the Sudanese-European relations began to improve since 2013 following the improvement of the situation in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan.
US Efforts to Remove Sudan from Terrorism List
Sandra Oudkirk commented on the difficulty to support Sudan in the international financial institutions, while urging to move quickly to allow for Sudan’s removal of the state’s sponsor of terrorism list.
”Because Sudan remains on the US state sponsors of terror list, we are limited in what we can do to support Sudan at the international financial institutions. And that’s one of the reasons it’s so important we have to move quickly in reaching the solutions that will allow the removal of Sudan from this list (States sponsors of terrorism list),” Oudkirk had said.
Sudan remains on the list despite its positive actions, which are cited by US State Department.
According to the US State Department report on the lifting of sanctions released in October, ”Since January, Sudan has continued its cooperation with the United States on counterterrorism efforts against terrorist groups in Sudan and North Africa, and has worked to counter terrorists’ attempts to transit Sudanese territory.”
The US state Department report states, ‘The Sudanese government’s actions against terrorists have been notable, significant, and have contributed to advancing U.S. counterterrorism objectives and the global fight against terrorism. The U.S. government will continue to engage the Government of Sudan to expand and deepen counterterrorism cooperation where possible.”
The situation looks hopeful. Oudkirk said,”While the political side is working on removing Sudan from the state sponsor list, in the meantime Oudkirk encourages Sudanese universities that focus on agricultural economics and sciences and agriculture institutions to focus on direct contact with similar organizations in the United States that also focus on agriculture research and development and international outreach.”
Earlier this month, the U.S. Administration permanently lifted 20-year-old economic sanctions against Sudan citing positive actions on humanitarian access and counter-terrorism. However, Washington’s decision left other sanctions in place for the time being, as it didn’t remove Sudan’s name from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
”I am hopeful that the impact of lifting the embargo will not just be the direct impact on Sudan trade but it will be a broader impact that goes to other countries as well,” Oudkirk said.