Obama orders lifting of trade sanctions on Sudan

Move recognises Khartoum's efforts to reduce conflict, counter terrorism and its progress on human rights, US president tells congress.

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WASHINGTON // The Obama administration on Friday moved to lift a trade embargo against Sudan in response to its recent cooperation in helping to tackle terrorism.

The lifting of the sanctions first slapped on Sudan by the Bill Clinton administration will however be delayed by 180 days to encourage Sudan to do more to fight terrorism and improve its record on human rights, the White House said.

“I have determined that the situation that gave rise to the actions taken in those orders related to the policies and actions of the government of Sudan has been altered by Sudan’s positive actions over the past six months,” president Barack Obama wrote in a letter to congress.

In that time there had been “a marked reduction in offensive military activity, culminating in a pledge to maintain a cessation of hostilities in conflict areas in Sudan”, he said.

The letter also recognised “steps toward the improvement of humanitarian access throughout Sudan, as well as cooperation with the United States on addressing regional conflicts and the threat of terrorism”.

Sudan welcomed the US decision, saying it was a “positive and important” development in relations with Washington.

“This step represents a positive and important development for the course of bilateral relations between the United States of America and Sudan, and is the natural result of joint efforts and long and frank discussions,” said Ghariballah Khidir, spokesman for the Sudanese ministry of foreign affairs.

Mr Khidir said Khartoum was “determined to pursue its cooperation with the United States until Sudan is removed from the list of countries that sponsor terrorism”.

The US first imposed sanctions on Sudan in 1997, including a trade embargo and blocking the government’s assets, for human rights violations and terrorism concerns. It added more sanctions in 2006 for what it said was complicity in the violence in Sudan’s Darfur region.

There were signs last year of a thaw in relations between Sudan and the United States, which accuses Sudanese president Omar Al Bashir of war crimes related to the conflict-torn Darfur region.

Friday’s move does not alter Sudan’s label as a state sponsor of terrorism, the White House said.

On September 20, the US state department welcomed efforts by Sudan to increase counter-terrorism cooperation with the United States.

Sudan had taken steps to counter ISIL and “other terrorist groups and has sought to prevent their movement into and through Sudan,” state department spokesman John Kirby said at the time.

* Agencies