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U.S. says committed to Sudan’s five-track process despite delay


July 13, 2017 (WASHINGTON) - U.S. officials Wednesday praised the efforts exerted by the Sudanese in the five-track engagement stressing that their decision to postpone the permanent lift of sanctions on Sudan was just motivated by the need for more time to conclude this robust process.

On Wednesday the State Department organised a press background briefing to explain a decision by an interagency team to extend the review period for the revocation of the economic embargo on Sudan for additional three months. However, the three officials who are members of the assessment team preferred to remain anonymous during the call.

The three-month delay came after a tense campaign carried out by human rights activists and Congressmen to maintain the sanctions, insisting on the human rights record of the Sudanese government. Although there were some doubts over Khartoum commitment to the humanitarian access, the pressure remained high on human rights particularly when the activists pointed that the 1997 sanctions were also imposed against the bad human rights record of the Sudanese government and not only its support to terrorist groups.

"Sudan has made significant progress in these areas (five tracks) over the last six months, but given that a new administration came in January and looking at where we’ve gone and where we will go, the administration decided that it needed more time to review Sudan’s actions and to establish that the government has demonstrated sustained, positive actions across all the areas that are set out in the executive order," said the senior administration officials.

They further reiterated that Washington remains committed to continuing this discussion on the five tracks but also to engage Khartoum "on other vital issues outside of the five-track arrangement", including "dialogue on improving Sudan’s human rights and religious freedom record, and also to ensure that, like we are on track with that throughout the globe, committed to the full implementation of UN Security Council resolutions on North Korea".

Angered by the additional postponement, the Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir ordered on Wednesday to suspend the ongoing discussions with the American administration over the normalisation of bilateral relations and the lift of sanctions.

But the senior officials minimised the decision saying they are waiting for official notification and more accurate details on the suspension.

The five track agreement, which was negotiated by the former U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Donald Both, includes the counterterrorism cooperation, the humanitarian access to the conflict areas, Sudan support to regional efforts to end the South Sudanese conflict and to fight against the Ugandan rebel group Lord Resistance Army.

Asked about the impact of the campaign by human rights activists and the Christian right group hostile to Khartoum, the senior officials ruled out such influence pointing that they haven’t made a decision yet on the sanction but only delayed it.

Further, they went to explain that the three-month delay was motivated by the five tracks and the humanitarian access particularly.

"Humanitarian access has always been a real problem, and I think we’ve succeeded in reversing a number of longstanding impediments. The extended review period is going to let us do even more, and we want to make sure that our principle – which is unfettered humanitarian access in all contexts – is something that we could go forward with the Government of Sudan, and (those) restrictions on travel and other issues - that are inconsistent with the freedom of movement- are addressed and overcome," they said.

NORTH KOREA

"The implementation of Security Council resolutions in North Korea, and especially efforts to stem North Korean missile proliferation and financing activities, is a top security priority for the President," said the officials to explain why they included it in agenda of bilateral talks even if it is not part of the five-track process.

Hover ever they stressed the North Korean matter has not been added to the five track framework but "it has been a continual concern we have with the Sudanese Government, and we’ve expressed that all along".

During a visit to Seoul on 1 November 2016, Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour announced that Khartoum had severed its diplomatic relations with Pyongyang and added there was no longer any military cooperation with the government of North Korea.

In March 2017, a report released by UN experts said that North Korea in 2013 supplied Sudan with sophisticated air-to-ground missiles that use satellite guidance systems.

(ST)