November 5, 2010 (KHARTOUM) – The U.S. senator and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee made a previously unannounced visit to Khartoum, his second one to the country in a little over a week.
Sudan official news agency (SUNA) quoted the foreign ministry spokesperson Muawiya Osman Khalid as saying that Kerry’s visit aims at continuing his talks on a number of issues particularly sticky issues such as the deadlock over Abyei and borders as well as implementing the outstanding items in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
The U.S. lawmaker said during his trip in the last week of October that he received written assurances from the Sudanese government that it would respect the January 9, 2011 date for the referendum in the South of the country despite mounting challenges to meet the deadline.
The peace agreement signed in 2005 called for a referendum on whether the south will become its own state. But the agreement did not spell out how the north and the south will resolve a host of complex and contentious issues, including citizenship, wealth sharing, national debt and water agreements.
Kerry had warned during his last visit of tougher sanctions if either the North or South governments places obstacles in the way of the independence vote.
But the presidential adviser and former spy chief Salah Gosh told reporters after a meeting with the U.S. senator that the latter has received “firm promises” that decades-long economic sanctions would be lifted should the referendum be completed smoothly as scheduled.
Gosh also said Kerry gave his word that Sudan would be removed from the list of countries that sponsor terrorism.
A well-placed source in Khartoum told Sudan Tribune that Western diplomats in the capital believe that Kerry likely came back with a detailed proposal for normalizing ties should Sudan heeds to U.S. demands. The offer would also include U.S. support for deferring the arrest warrant against Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir through the UN Security Council for one year that can be renewed indefinitely.
Kerry is the lead author of legislation in the US Congress to cement Washington’s engagement with Sudan after the referendum, including certain types of US aid for security forces and civil aviation.
The United States has banned virtually all trade with Sudan since 1997.
Sudan has been on the US sanctions list as an alleged supporter of Islamic militant groups and over the situation in its war-torn western region of Darfur.