The United States and Sudan will exchange ambassadors for the first time in 23 years, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Wednesday.
Pompeo made the announcement as Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok made his first official visit to Washington following his rise to power, after the ousting of strongman Omar al-Bashir this year following 30 years of dictatorship.
“Today, we are pleased to announce that the United States and Sudan have decided to initiate the process of exchanging ambassadors after a 23-year gap,” Pompeo said in a statement. “This decision is a meaningful step forward in strengthening the U.S.-Sudan bilateral relationship, particularly as the civilian-led transitional government works to implement the vast reforms under the political agreement and constitutional declaration of August 17, 2019. We look forward to working with the Senate to confirm an ambassador to Sudan.”
Hamdok said he hopes to secure Sudan’s removal from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, on which Sudan has been listed for the past 25 years, making it one of the countries included on the Trump administration’s travel ban imposed shortly after he took office in 2017. Any country with such designation also becomes ineligible for debt relief and loans from the IMF or World Bank.
“Since his August 21 appointment, Prime Minister Hamdok has led Sudan’s transitional government, installed a civilian cabinet, and made key personnel changes to break with the policies and practices of the previous regime,” said Pompeo.
“He has demonstrated a commitment to peace negotiations with armed opposition groups, established a commission of inquiry to investigate violence against protestors, and committed to holding democratic elections at the end of the 39-month transition period,” he continued.
Former President Bill Clinton closed the U.S. Embassy in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum in 1996, citing terrorism concerns. However, the Bush administration reopened it in 2002 but did not appoint an ambassador, instead appointing a charge d’affaires. The new ambassador will also require their appointment to be confirmed by the Senate.
Sudan’s ruling council on Thursday hailed the reappointment of ambassadors between the two countries as a positive step in re-establishing diplomatic relations.
“It is a positive step in the right direction toward normalizing relations between the two countries along with removing Sudan from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism,” Mohamed al-Faki, spokesperson of the Sovereign Council, told Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency.
“Relations with the U.S. are important and strategic and since we have formed the transitional government, we were working on improving the relations with Washington at all levels,” he added.