Sudan appoints US ambassador for first time in quarter-century

The move comes after a deal in December to exchange diplomats amid improving relations since the downfall of Omar Al Bashir

Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (not pictured) address the media at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, February 14, 2020. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

Sudan has appointed its first ambassador to the United States for almost a quarter of a century, its foreign ministry said on Monday, in a move to normalise relations after decades of hostilities.

Both countries pledged to improve ties after the fall of veteran ruler Omar Al Bashir in an uprising a year ago.

The Sudanese foreign ministry said it had chosen Noureldin Sati, a veteran diplomat, as ambassador in Washington and that US authorities had approved his nomination.

A State Department representative declined to comment on plans to appoint its own ambassador to Sudan. He said the department did not have specific information on the timing for that but called the decision made in December to exchange ambassadors "a historic step".

Both countries have, for almost a quarter of a century, appointed only charge d'affaires, a diplomatic rank under an ambassador, to run their embassies in Washington and Khartoum.

In December, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the two countries would exchange ambassadors. The US ambassador would be announced by President Donald Trump and needs to be confirmed by the US Senate.

The US government added Sudan to its list of state sponsors of terrorism in 1993 over allegations that Al Bashir’s government was supporting militant groups, leaving Sudan ineligible for badly needed debt relief and financing from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. There have been growing international calls for the US to drop the sanctions over the coronavirus pandemic.

Last year, a senior State Department official said the United States might remove Sudan from the list but the US Congress needed to ratify such a move.

The State Department representative declined to comment on internal US government deliberations on where the talks are about Sudan being removed from the list but added that the two countries remain engaged in active discussions.

"Compensation for the victims of terrorism remains a priority for the US government. The United States and Sudan continue to engage regarding certain terrorism-related claims," the spokesperson said.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok on Monday said he was close to solving an issue over appointing civilian governors to the country’s 18 provinces – a key issue in negotiations to end long-running conflicts in several areas of the country.

Currently, military-appointed generals oversee the running of the country’s districts but thanks to a deal between the civilian and military leadership last August Mr Hamdok will present civilian candidates after talks with rebel groups as part of a series of peace deals he is trying to negotiate to bring peace to Sudan.

He praised the work of the military generals “in difficult circumstances”.

The prime minister said he wants to “create an atmosphere in which the people of the states feel the revolution and [that there is] real change. They didn't feel it yet … Of course, we will reach that very soon, as part of the challenges that are discussed in the context of achieving a lasting peace that addresses the roots of the crisis in all states.”

The prime minister is already behind the six-month schedule to negotiate the peace deal with armed factions as laid out in the August political deal with the military for Sudan to transition to democracy over 39 months.

Separately, Egypt on Monday sent four cargo planes loaded with medical equipment to Khartoum to handle the coronavirus pandemic. Egypt said it was in light of medicine shortages caused by the country’s economic crisis and aimed to help Sudan contain the spread of the virus in the country where there is already 678 confirmed cases and 41 deaths.

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