US offers to move forward with Sudan

The United States said on Wednesday it was ready to move ahead in normalising ties with Sudan after it allowed a peaceful vote on secession in the south, but insisted it would not overlook Darfur.

Foreign Minister Ali Karti met with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on a trip to Washington, just weeks after 99 percent of the largely Christian and animist south voted to split from Africa’s largest country.
Clinton praised Sudan for its handling of the referendum, a key part of a 2005 peace deal ending more than two decades of war that left over two million people dead and around twice as many displaced.
“We very much appreciate the government of Sudan’s cooperation and assistance in ensuring a peaceful referendum and we look forward to continuing to work with the minister and the government,” she told reporters.
In a subsequent statement, the State Department said its boss “reaffirmed US willingness to take steps toward normalization of relations, as Sudan meets its commitments under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement.”
Those commitments include negotiating further arrangements in the south - but also helping resolve the separate conflict in the parched western region of Darfur, a longstanding source of tension.
After years of friction, Karti struck a sharply different tone as he publicly thanked the United States for its assistance for the referendum and “for all they have done (throughout) the history of Sudan.”
“We are here also to look to the future, and to cooperate and work together,” Karti said.
Officials said Karti was seeking an easing of economic sanctions on Sudan. The United States has banned virtually all trade with Sudan since 1997, and President Barack Obama extended the restrictions in November.
The Obama administration has focused on resolving the north-south conflict but said it was also concerned about Darfur.
“We are certainly not ignoring the situation with respect to Darfur,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters.
Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir said Tuesday that that his country, whose north is dominated by Arabs and Muslims, would not “mourn” the south’s independence and accepted the birth of the world’s newest nation.
But Bashir also faces an international arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide over the conflict in Darfur.
At least 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur since the conflict erupted in 2003 when tribal fighters rose up against the Khartoum government, according to UN figures. Khartoum says 10,000 people have died in the conflict.
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