The United States lifted long-standing sanctions against Sudan on Friday, saying it had made progress fighting terrorism and easing humanitarian distress, and also secured Khartoum’s commitment not to pursue arms deals with North Korea.
In a move that completes a process begun by former President Barack Obama and which was opposed by human rights groups, President Donald Trump removed a U.S. trade embargo and other penalties that had effectively cut Sudan off from much of the global financial system.
The U.S. decision marked a major turnaround for the government of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who once played host to Osama bin Laden and is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of orchestrating genocide in Darfur.
However, Sudan will stay on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism – alongside Iran and Syria – which carries a ban on weapons sales and restrictions on U.S. aid, U.S. officials said.
Sudanese officials also remain subject to United Nations sanctions for human rights abuses during the Darfur conflict, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The lifting of sanctions reflects a U.S. assessment that Sudan has made progress in meeting Washington’s demands, including cooperation on counter-terrorism, working to resolve internal conflicts and allowing more humanitarian aid into Darfur and other rebellious border areas, the officials said.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the sanctions relief was in recognition of Sudan’s “sustained positive actions” but that more improvement was needed.
The Trump administration also secured a commitment from Sudan that it would “not pursue arms deals” with North Korea, and Washington will apply “zero tolerance” in ensuring Khartoum’s compliance, one of the officials said.
But they said Khartoum’s assurances on North Korea were not a condition for lifting sanctions, some of which had been in place for 20 years and have hobbled the Sudanese economy.
Sudan has long been suspected of military ties with North Korea, which is locked in a tense standoff with Washington over its missiles and nuclear weapons programs. But the official said Khartoum was not believed to have diplomatic relations with Pyongyang and that was not expected to change.
Sudan also has recently distanced itself diplomatically from Iran, another U.S. arch-foe.