The United States Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on Wednesday made an historic visit to Sudan where promised cementing new good relations with the country once considered and sanctioned for being a state sponsor of terrorism.
A statement released by the Department of State Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said Pompeo met with the Sudan Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and discussed a number of issues.
Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo met with Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok today in Khartoum. Secretary Pompeo and Prime Minister Hamdok discussed continued U.S. support for the civilian-led transitional government and noted that rescission of Sudan’s State Sponsor of Terrorism designation remains a critical bilateral priority for both countries. The Secretary and Prime Minister also discussed positive developments in the Sudan-Israel relationship. The Secretary urged Prime Minister Hamdok to continue to prioritize the protection of Darfuri civilians and other marginalized groups and hold those responsible for human rights abuses and violations accountable. The Secretary and Prime Minister agreed that achieving mutually beneficial agreement among Sudan, Ethiopia, and Egypt on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is crucial to regional stability. End
U.S and Sudan Relations History
After the outbreak of the Six-Day War in June 1967, Sudan declared war on Israel and broke diplomatic relations with the U.S. Relations improved after July 1971, when the Sudanese Communist Party attempted to overthrow President Nimeiry, and Nimeiry suspected Soviet involvement. Relations improved further after the U.S. provided assistance for the resettlement of refugees following the 1972 peace settlement that brought the First Sudanese Civil War with the south.
On 1 March 1973, Palestinian terrorists of the Black September organization murdered U.S. Ambassador Cleo A. Noel and Deputy Chief of Mission Curtis G. Moore in Khartoum. Sudanese officials arrested the terrorists and tried them on murder charges. In June 1974, however, they were released to the custody of the Egyptian government. The U.S. Ambassador to Sudan was withdrawn in protest. Although the U.S. Ambassador returned to Khartoum in November, relations with Sudan remained static until early 1976, when President Nimeiri mediated the release of 10 American hostages being held by Eritrean insurgents in rebel strongholds in northern Ethiopia. In 1976, the U.S. resumed economic assistance to Sudan.
In late 1985, there was a reduction in staff at the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum because of the presence of a large contingent of Libyan terrorists. In April 1986, relations with Sudan deteriorated when the U.S. bombed Tripoli, Libya. A U.S. Embassy employee was shot on 16 April 1986. Immediately following this incident, all non-essential personnel and all dependents left for six months. At this time, Sudan was the single largest recipient of U.S. development and military assistance in sub-Saharan Africa.
Presidency of Omar al-Bashir
Following the military coup against the democratically-elected government of prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi, after it began negotiations with rebels in the south, brought to power the National Islamic Front led by General Omar al-Bashir, official U.S. development assistance to Sudan was suspended in 1989. U.S. relations with Sudan were further strained in the 1990s. Sudan was perceived to take sides with Iraq in the Gulf War as Sudan opposed intervention from countries outside of the region. In the early and mid-1990s, Carlos the Jackal, Osama bin Laden, Abu Nidal, and other terrorist leaders resided in Khartoum. Carlos was captured and handed over by the Sudanese authorities and bin Laden (who was unknown before 9/11) was asked to leave the country by the government. All the while, Sudan maintained its support of the Palestinian cause. Sudan’s role in the Pan-Arab Islamic Conference represented a matter of great concern to the security of American officials and dependents in Khartoum, resulting in several drawdowns and/or evacuations of U.S. personnel from Khartoum in the early-mid 1990s. Sudan’s links with international terrorist organizations was of concern to the U.S., leading to Sudan’s 1993 designation as a state sponsor of terrorism and a suspension of U.S. Embassy operations in Khartoum in 1996. In October 1997, the U.S. imposed comprehensive economic, trade, and financial sanctions against Sudan. In August 1998, on accusations of manufacturing chemical weapons, the U.S. launched cruise missile strikes against Sudan’s Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory. The owner of the factory took the case to court demanding compensation, as the U.S. came short on providing evidence to support the strike on a pharmaceutical factory. The last U.S. Ambassador to Sudan, Ambassador Tim Carney (27 June 1995 – 30 November 1997), departed the post prior to this event and no new ambassador has been appointed since. The U.S. Embassy is headed by a charge d’affaires.
The U.S. and Sudan entered into a bilateral dialogue on counterterrorism in May 2000. Sudan has provided concrete cooperation against international terrorism since the September 11 attacks in 2001 on New York and Washington. However, although Sudan publicly supported the international coalition actions against the al-Qaida network and the Taliban in Afghanistan, the government criticized the U.S. strikes in that country and opposed a widening of the effort against international terrorism to other countries.
By 2001, the United States had another strategic interest in Africa due to the presence of oil, with Darfur and Kordofan being “the areas richest in oil in the entire country. The U.S. Embassy was reopened in 2002, though an ambassador was not appointed.
In response to Sudan’s continued complicity in unabated violence in Darfur, U.S. President George W. Bush imposed new economic sanctions on Sudan in May 2007. The sanctions blocked assets of Sudanese citizens implicated in the Darfur violence, and also sanctioned additional companies owned or controlled by the Government of Sudan. Sanctions continue to underscore U.S. efforts to end the suffering of the millions of Sudanese affected by the crisis in Darfur. Sudan has often accused the U.S. of threatening its territorial integrity by supporting referendums in the South and in Darfur.
Al-Bashir was deposed as Sudan’s president in a coup d’état in April 2019. In September 2019, Sudan’s new prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, said that he held useful talks with U.S. officials while at the United Nations, and expressed hope Khartoum could “very soon” be removed from the U.S. state sponsor of terrorism list. In December 2019, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that the U.S. and Sudan are to begin exchanging ambassadors after 23 years of no diplomatic relations. That same month, Hamdok became the first Sudanese leader to visit Washington D.C. since 1985.
The last U.S. Ambassador was Tim Carney, who left the post on 30 November 1997. Also in December, it was reported that the Sudanese transitional government will close the offices of Hamas, Hezbollah, and any other Islamic group designated as terrorist by the U.S. Sudan remains on the U.S. state sponsor of terrorism list.
As of June 2019, the office of U.S. Ambassador to Sudan was vacant. The Chargé d’Affaires was Steven Koutsis and the Deputy Chief of Mission was Ellen B. Thorburn.
On 5 May 2020, Sudan appointed Noureldin Sati, a veteran diplomat, as ambassador.
In August 2020, Mike Pompeo became the first US secretary of state to visit Sudan since Condoleezza Rice in 2005. The visit came on the heels of the Israel–United Arab Emirates peace agreement. His visit was meant to discuss the possibility of opening relations between Sudan and Israel and exhibit assistance and support for Sudan’s shift to democracy. Israel is still at war with Sudan in theory and has no formal diplomatic relations with it.