Why the US has lifted its 20 year trade ban on Sudan

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

WASHINGTON – The US State Department has announced the lifting of long-standing economic sanctions against Sudan, saying the East African nation has cooperated with American counter-terrorism efforts and improved its adherence to a ceasefire with Sudanese rebels.

“Today, the United States decided to revoke economic sanctions with respect to Sudan and the Government of Sudan… in recognition of the Government of Sudan’s sustained positive actions to maintain a cessation of hostilities in conflict areas in Sudan,” said Heather Nauert, State Department Spokesperson, also citing improved humanitarian access throughout Sudan, and counter-terrorism cooperation.

The move comes after a provisional order by President Obama earlier this year allowing for the lifting of sanctions after an official inter-agency review process. Obama’s administration had led months of talks with the Sudanese government offering to lift the sanctions and improve trade ties provided that the Sudanese cooperate on South Sudanese peace talks, counter-terrorism and easing humanitarian access restrictions.

According to Nauert, the revocation will be effective from October 12, 2017.

Rex Tillerson, the US Secretary of State, explained in a more detailed report accompanying the announcement that Sudan had refrained from launching military offensives during the last nine months. “This restraint stands in contrast to past behavior, such as the major Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) military campaign that targeted the Jebel Marra area in late 2015 and early 2016 and the dry season offensives that the SAF launched annually in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states since the conflict in these states began in 2011,” he added.

“In this reporting period, we have no confirmed evidence that the GOS (Government of Sudan), including the security forces under its command or control, initiated offensive military operations. Furthermore, there have been no confirmed reports of GOS aerial bombardments – a trademark of GOS offensives in previous years.”

The top US diplomat added that Sudan’s government has helped in combatting terrorist groups in North Africa, saying that it worked to counter terrorists’ attempts to transit Sudanese territory. “The Sudanese government’s actions against terrorists have been notable, significant, and have contributed to advancing U.S. CT objectives and the global fight against terrorism,” said Tillerson.

Regarding South Sudan, Tillerson said that Sudan has urged a peaceful resolution of the internal conflict in that country. “While certain opposition actors were present at times in Khartoum, and low-level contacts continued with SPLM-In Opposition (SPLM-IO) groups within Sudan, we do not assess that Sudan provided any significant arms or other material support to opposition groups operating and engaging in conflict in South Sudan. This stands in contrast to earlier years of the conflict where credible reports indicated that the GOS (Government of Sudan) provided significant arms and material support to opposition forces,” he said.

“Even as the conflict worsened in South Sudan during the reporting period, this was a result of the actions of the warring South Sudanese parties and not related to action by the GOS (Government of Sudan).”

Sanctions against Sudan, which began under President Bill Clinton and were intensified under George W. Bush, had left Sudan isolated from much of the global financial system, and also limited Western investment in areas fields agriculture, medicine, and tourism.

However, the State Department noted in its announcement that there is more room for improvement in bilateral ties with Sudan. “Any further normalization of ties will require continued progress,” Nauert said.


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