US delays decision on Sudan sanctions
Posted July 12, 2017 2:44 p.m. EDT
The US government has extended its review into whether trade sanctions against Sudan should be repealed, delaying the final decision by three months as the Trump administration considers whether to pursue improved relations first broached in the final days of the Obama administration.
As the US continues its review, it is also pledging to intensify its engagement with the diplomatically isolated nation on a "broader range of vital issues," including, "ensuring that Sudan is committed to the full implementation of UN Security Council resolutions on North Korea."
Some of the sanctions in question were temporarily lifted in January, allowing Sudan to purchase US goods as long as it continued to show progress on five so-called "tracks," which include maintaining regional ceasefires, enhancing counter-terrorism cooperation, and improving humanitarian access.
In a call with reporters Wednesday, senior administration officials affirmed that the Sudanese government had made significant progress on all five tracks, but ultimately decided to delay its final decision to give the new administration time to fully review the issue.
But at the same time, the United States is signaling that Sudan's past support for North Korea could present an obstacle to continued progress, even though the issue falls outside of the five tracks.
"The Trump administration has made it really clear that the number one security issue for them and for the government is North Korea," said one official on the administration call, "and that is a global security issue."
Earlier this year, Sudan was accused by a United Nations panel of buying weapons from North Korea, and has maintained trade ties with the regime in Pyongyang.
The Sudanese government responded to the decision Thursday by freezing talks with the United States on the sanctions issue until October, according to the state-run Sudan News Agency.
A US official, however, declined to respond to that report, insisting there has been "continued engagement" with the Sudanese.
"We don't know if (the report) is accurate," the official added.
The US, meanwhile, has been without a Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan since the inauguration, and it is unclear whether President Donald Trump will appoint one in the future.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is currently reviewing the State Department's organizational structure with the goal of reducing redundancies, and is expected to cut a number of special envoy positions.
Sudan remains a US-designated state sponsor of terror and is one of five countries subject to the Trump administration's travel ban.