The top US envoy in Sudan said on Sunday 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 cooperating 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 … and we hope that those conditions will come soon,” he said, without elaborating.
Later on Saturday, Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour said Khartoum faces a “paradox”. “We are the best country cooperating on countering terrorism and at the same time we are on the list of state sponsors of terrorism,” Ghandour said in his first remarks since the trade embargo was dropped.
Ghandour, who led the Sudanese team negotiating the lifting of sanctions, said it was time to start talks for removing the country from the blacklist. On Friday, Khartoum had expressed disappointment that this had not happened. “Discussion on removing from the (list of) 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.
Khartoum insists that there is no reason for it to be on the blacklist as it has cooperated with US intelligence agencies in fighting terrorism in the region, a claim acknowledged even by the US State Department. Sudanese officials say that being 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. “If you want to talk to anyone, they will say ‘go to the big brother’,” said Ghandour. “As a foreign minister I thought what can I do? So, if you open the doors with the United States, you open the doors with others.”