Sudan’s foreign minister said his country, which has been under US sanctions for 20 years, was looking forward to the restoration of normal ties.
Minister Ibrahim Ghandour made his remarks at a meeting with US President Donald Trump’s new aid administrator ahead of an October 12 deadline for a decision by Washington on easing some sanctions.
“We know the queries in the mind of each one of us,” Ghandour told Mark Green, head of the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
“On our side we look forward to normalisation of our relations with an important country – the important country in the world – the US,” said Ghandour, who has overseen dialogue with Washington over the easing of sanctions.
He added: “I look forward to seeing normal relations between my country and yours.”
Former US President Barack Obama announced easing of sanctions in January, just before he stepped down, as a goodwill gesture recognising Sudan’s increased co-operation in the fight against terrorism and Khartoum’s pivot from Iran to the Gulf States.
Any such move could suspend a trade embargo, unfreeze assets and remove financial restrictions hobbling the Sudanese economy.
The North African country wants to regain access to the global banking system, potentially unlocking badly needed trade and foreign investment. It needs both to cope with an inflation rate of 35% and a shortage of foreign currency that cripples its ability to purchase abroad.
Implementation of the move was delayed for six months to allow Sudan more time to make progress on key demands and to give the new Trump administration time to settle in.
Among conditions set by the United States for easing sanctions is increased humanitarian access to communities afflicted by years of conflict.
Any lifting of economic penalties would be a major turnaround for the government of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, once host to Osama bin Laden and wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of orchestrating genocide in Darfur.
Washington has not weakened condemnation of the tactics the Sudanese government used in Darfur – and Sudan remains on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, alongside Iran and Syria
Reporters were ushered from the room before Green could make remarks. However, Green told Reuters on Monday after visiting North Darfur state there were improvements to humanitarian access.
In particular, for the first time in seven years aid workers were allowed into Jebel Marra, a mountainous region in Darfur where clashes between government and rebels persist, according to USAID reports.
While he acknowledged progress, Green said the final decision on sanctions was up to Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
“Certainly there has been progress particularly in recent weeks,” Green said, “This is not a matter of whether things look perfect on the date a decision is made, it’s whether or not long-lasting changes have been made.”
The United States first imposed sanctions on Sudan in 1997, including a trade embargo and blocking government assets, for human rights violations and terrorism concerns. The United States layered on more sanctions in 2006 for what it said was complicity in violence in Sudan’s Darfur region.