US secretary of state makes first call to Sudan

Fifth call to an Arab country Blinken has made since being sworn in

FILE PHOTO: Newly confirmed U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken removes his face mask as he arrives to hold his first press briefing at the State Department in Washington, U.S., January 27, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/Pool/File Photo
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made his first call to Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok on Tuesday, affirming Washington’s support for a civilian-led transition and peace in the country.

The call, which is the first from the Biden administration to Sudan, came on the same day Khartoum announced a new Cabinet, with Mr Hamdok remaining as Prime Minister.

Mr Blinken “emphasised continued US support for the civilian-led transitional government [and] applauded Sudan’s efforts to deliver peace, justice and freedom for the Sudanese people,” the US State Department said.

“They also discussed ways to promote economic reform and development, while also implementing recent peace agreements and addressing the root causes of violence in Darfur.”

Sudan is the fifth Arab country Mr Blinken has called since being sworn in, after Jordan, Iraq, UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Last month, a senior military delegation from US Africa Command concluded a two-day visit to Sudan, during which officials discussed deepening naval, counter-terrorism and defence co-operation between Washington and Khartoum.

The visit, which was the first for a senior US delegation since Sudan was removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

It was led by Andrew Young, the Africa Command's deputy for civil-military engagement, and its director for intelligence and navy, Rear Admiral Heidi Berg.

Sudan's relations with the US were marred by hostility and sanctions until long-time dictator Omar Al Bashir's removal from power in April 2019.

In 1993, the US added Sudan to the state sponsors of terrorism list, then imposed a trade embargo and crippling sanctions to punish Khartoum for its ties to extremist organisations and Iran, and its role in Darfur.

After Al Bashir's downfall, the Trump administration took major strides towards normalising relations, granting Khartoum partial immunity from further lawsuits after a payout of $335 million for US victims of Al Qaeda attacks that the regime supported.

Sudan also agreed to normalise relations with Israel last year, adding to its improved ties with Washington.

The Biden administration appears so far to be continuing the gradual improvement in relations pursued by the Obama and Trump administrations.