|12 June, 2019

U.S. joins diplomatic push to salvage Sudan talks

Stability in the nation of 40 million is crucial for a volatile region struggling with conflict and insurgencies from the Horn of Africa to Egypt and Libya.

KHARTOUM - The top U.S. diplomat for Africa was due in Khartoum on Wednesday to join an international push to salvage a deal between Sudan's military rulers and opposition groups two months after the overthrow of former President Omar al-Bashir.

The visit comes after an Ethiopian envoy said the ruling Transitional Military Council and an alliance of protest and opposition groups had agreed to resume talks and the alliance suspended a three-day strike.

Stalled talks over who should control a three-year transition towards elections collapsed after a June 3 raid on a protest sit-in that left dozens dead.

The bloodshed in Sudan has prompted concern from world powers including the United States, which sanctioned Sudan under Bashir over its alleged support for militant groups and the civil war in Darfur.

Trade sanctions were lifted in 2017 but Sudan is still on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, which prevents it from accessing badly needed funding from international lenders. Washington previously said it will not take Sudan off the list while the military remains in power.

Stability in the nation of 40 million is crucial for a volatile region struggling with conflict and insurgencies from the Horn of Africa to Egypt and Libya.

The military council has been bolstered by support from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which between them have offered $3 billion in aid.

OPTIMISM

"The current detente in Sudan calls for optimism and we call for the establishment of an agreement that will drive the transitional phase through a real and stable partnership," UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said on Twitter.

He also praised the role of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who flew to Khartoum last week on a mediation mission and is expected to return this week.

Tibor Nagy, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, will meet with the military council and the opposition to call for an end to violence against civilians and push for the resumption of talks, according to the State Department.

The crackdown from June 3 led to at least 118 deaths, according to opposition-linked medics. The government has confirmed 61 deaths, including three security personnel.

Talks were already deadlocked before the crackdown as the two sides struggled to agree on the make-up of a sovereign council that will oversee the transition.

In Khartoum, employees returned to work on Wednesday and store owners opened their shops, after the alliance of protesters and opposition groups suspended a three-day campaign of strikes and civil disobedience.

Many people lined up outside ATMs and banks that had closed first for the Eid holiday at the start of June and then because of the strike.

Sudan is still suffering an internet outage. Some side streets that had been closed by protesters were still partially blocked by remnants of barricades. Rubbish bins not emptied for days were overflowing.

(Additional reporting by Sylvia Westall; Writing by Lena Masri Editing by Aidan Lewis and Andrew Cawthorne) ((Lena.Masri@thomsonreuters.com;))

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