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US-Sudan Relations: Washington wants progress in rights and religious freedom

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Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan, third from left, met with Sudan's foreign minister, Ibrahim Ghandour, fourth from right, in Khartoum on 16 November 2017. (Photo AFP/ Ebrahim Hamid )
April 18, 2018 (WASHINGTON) - In Phase II of the ongoing engagement with Sudan to normalize of relations, The United States will focus on the need for more progress in human rights and religious freedom in the east African country, said the State Department.

Last March a bipartisan group of 57 U.S. Congressmen wrote to John Sullivan Deputy Secretary of State who is tasked with the Sudanese file urging not to remove Sudan from the list of states supporting terrorism and normalize relations before to end the war, restore freedoms and human rights.

In a letter dated 16 April 2018, seen by Sudan Tribune, the State Department Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Mary Waters reassured the congressmen telling them the U.S. administration shares their goal.

"We agree that more progress is needed and are working now to design a "Phase 11" framework for our engagement. The Administration is considering including specific requirements along the lines of what you suggested in your letter, especially with regard to human rights, including religious freedom," wrote Waters.

In October 2017, Washington announced the end of the 20-year embargo on Sudan in line with the "Five Track Engagement Plan", in which Khartoum agreed to a cessation of hostilities with the armed groups, opened unfettered humanitarian access in the conflict-affected areas, agreed to support efforts for peace in South Sudan and developed cooperation with the U.S. to counter terrorism in the region.

The two countries said they would soon resume discussions on the normalization process, as Khartoum, from its side, feels the limited benefit of the lift of economic sanctions without its removal from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism.

Waters told the Congressmen that in the upcoming phase of the normalization process Washington intends to use "the United States’ unique leverage" to bring the Sudanese government to adopt and implement "meaningful reforms" but also to "mark progress" in order to end the armed conflicts in Darfur and the Two Area.

"This engagement also ensures, in line with the Administration’s priorities, that Sudan abstains from ties with North Korea, and assists with the United States’ counterterrorism efforts," stressed the letter.

The State Department senior official further said they are prepared to address any regression by the Sudanese government on the agreed issues.

"We have been clear with Sudan that we expect no backsliding in progress to date," she said.

The diplomat didn’t specify if they plan to remove Sudan from the U.S. terror list as Khartoum requests.

The next round of bilateral talks will be held in Washington as Sullivan was in Khartoum last November 2017 after the lift of sanctions.

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