Title: A New Phase of Normalization of Relations between Sudan and the United States: Negotiating Tracks o
Author: Sudan Democracy First Group
Date: 12-13-2018, 03:18 PM
03:18 PM December, 13 2018
Sudan Democracy First Group-
The first week of November 2018 witnessed an official visit by the Sudanese Foreign Minister, El-Derderi Mohammad Ahmed, to the United States (US) capital Washington, D.C. During his visit, El-Derderi met with a number of the US administration officials, who were led by US Deputy Secretary of States, John Sullivan. The visit was preceded by another visit to the US by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Sudanese Army, Lieutenant General Kamal Abdul-Maarouf, in October 2018, the first of its kind by a high ranking Sudanese military official to the US, to attend a conference held by the US Army Command on combatting violent extremism. During the conference, Abdul-Maarouf had separate meetings with senior leaders in the US military and the Central Intelligence Agency.
The visit of the Sudanese Chief of Staff is a remarkable development in US-Sudan relations, that has uncovered the extent of the military and security cooperation between the two countries.
Soon after the visit of the Sudanese foreign minister, the US Department of State released a statement announcing the beginning of a new round of talks between the US and Sudan, aimed at removing Sudan from the list of state sponsoring terrorism. In October last year, the US lifted economic sanctions imposed on Sudan since 1997, but did not removed Sudan from the list of state sponsoring terrorism. The US State Department's statement contains several conditions or tracks that are to be negotiated in order to lift the name of Sudan from the list , including: expanding counterterrorism cooperation, enhancing human rights protections and practices, including freedoms of religion and press, improving humanitarian access, ceasing internal hostilities and creating a more conducive environment for progress in Sudan’s peace process, taking steps to address certain outstanding terrorism-related claims, and adhering to UN Security Council resolutions related to North Korea.
However, various sources reported that these tracks were not the main agenda in the meeting between the Sudanese and American officials. The US side in the talks raised the need to rehabilitate and present President Bashir in a new way, including improving his public image and pushing him to make strategic decisions and stop tactical moves and diplomatic language with regard to the relations with Russia and North Korea and the covert support of Islamists. The current term of President Bashir, who has been in power since 1989, ends in 2020, although the Sudan's constitution of 2005, sets the presidential terms for two terms only. Bashir ran for presidency, and was elected after the adoption of 2005 constitution, in 2010 and 2015 elections. However, the ruling party has announced several times, most recently during its general political conference in November 2018, of its intention to nominate Bashir for the presidency in 2020 general election, a move that requires the amendment of the constitution through the parliament, which is controlled by the ruling National Congress Party (NCP). Moreover, the NCP, using its majority in parliament, passed the new election law last month, amid objections from some members of the parliament, who withdrew from the session at which the law was passed. The law contains a number of articles which open the door for wide violations in the electoral process including the rigging of the results. The most prominent of these articles is the extension of the voting and counting period to three days.
This was not the first time that US officials raised the issue of the continuation of Bashir's presidency, but was discussed during the visit of US Deputy Secretary of State, John Sullivan, to Khartoum in November 2017, after the lifting of economic sanctions against Sudan, in bilateral meetings with Sudanese officials. Al-Bashir responded to the concern of the US about his presidency by visiting Russia, and meeting with the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and publicly asking him for protection from US harassment and attacks.
The Sudanese Foreign Minister's meeting with US officials in Washington was also followed with angry statements from President Bashir, in his address before a gathering of the Popular Defense Forces. He used a Sudanese proverb to describe his relation with the US saying “He who is covered by America is naked”, meaning that there is no point in relying on reforming relations with the US. Following his visit to Washington, El-Deredri, carried out a wide European tour that included Paris, Brussels and Berlin, where he met senior officials including the Vice President of the European Union Commission, in an effort to pursue the European Union and their good office across the world, using the Sudan leverage in the Migration Agenda, to help in lifting the name of Sudan from the list of terrorism.
However, the question of improving US-Sudanese relations remains uncertain because of the US mixed signals to the Khartoum government. What is the price that the Khartoum Government need to pay؟ Is it the fulfillment of the terms of the new negotiation tracks or the end of Bashir presidency؟