French foreign minister arrives in Sudan to meet new leaders
CAIRO (AP) — France’s foreign minister on Monday said his country would support Sudan’s new leaders in their efforts to achieve peace with rebel groups, and work to end the African country’s international pariah status.
Jean-Yves Le Drian landed in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, weeks after the formation of the first civilian-led government since the military ousted former President Omar al-Bashir in April. He was the second top western diplomat to visit Sudan this month, following Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.
Le Drian said France would work to convince armed groups to reach a peace agreement with the civilian-led government after the two sides charted a roadmap for their peace talks.
“We support the will of Sudan’s authorities to reach a peace agreement with in six months,” he said in a press conference alongside Sudan’s first woman foreign minister, Asmaa Abdalla.
He also met with Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of the newly appointed Sovereign Council, as well as Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and protest leaders.
Sudan has been convulsed by rebellions in its far-flung provinces for decades, resulting in tens of thousands of people being killed. The power-sharing agreement between the military and the pro-democracy movement calls for the new government to make peace with rebel groups within six months.
The government and the rebels signed an initial deal last week after three days of negotiations in Juba, capital of neighboring South Sudan. Talks are supposed to begin Oct. 14, with the goal of reaching a final peace deal within two months, according to the initial agreement.
France’s top diplomat also said Paris would work with its European patterners to get Sudan off the U.S. list of countries sponsoring terrorism, so it could cooperate with the world economic institutions and settle its debts.
The U.S. named Sudan a state sponsor of terror in 1993, and the designation stuck through the al-Bashir regime. In 2017, Washington began a formal process to de-list Sudan, but this was put on hold when mass protests began in December. Moves to de-list Sudan could resume once the country’s political situation has stabilized.
Removing Sudan from the U.S. terror list would help the transitional government seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, part of its efforts to revive the ailing economy.
Hamdok told a local TV station last month that Sudan needs up to $8 billion in foreign aid in the next two years and another $2 billion deposited as reserves to shore up the plunging local currency.
Sudan was plunged into an economic crisis when the oil-rich south seceded in 2011 after decades of war, taking with it more than half of public revenues and 95% of exports. Sudan has been battling rebellions in its long-neglected provinces for decades and is nearly $60 billion in debt.