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Signs of tension easing between Sudan and US

A few sanctions are lifted after special envoy Donald Booth visits Khartoum; demand for gum arabic is critical

Signs of tension easing between Sudan and US


There are signs of tension easing between the U.S. government and Sudan, in the wake of the two-day visit by U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan Donald Booth that ended on Friday.

Booth's visit included an announcement of the lifting of American sanctions, which have been in place since 1997, on a few key agricultural products, including sesame and gum guar. Earlier this year, sanctions were lifted to provide Internet access to some Google apps. 

But the majority of sanctions, which were imposed for alleged support for terrorism, remain in place, although Booth discussed lifting the sanctions with the minister of foreign affairs, minister of finance, the governor of the central bank and the Sudanese first Vice President Bakri Hassan Salih. 

Booth did not meet with Sudan President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, who, in 2008, was accused of war crimes in the conflict in Darfur. 

After meeting with government officials, Booth held talks with the Sudanese Gum Arabic Company on Thursday.

The president of the Gum Arabic Company, Abdelmajid Abdelgader, reported that Booth was interested in whether exports of gum Arabic to the American market could be increased.

Gum Arabic is an emulsifier and a stabiliser made from the branches of the Senegalese acacia tree. Sudanese gum Arabic was the only exemption from sanctions. Sanctions on gum Arabic would have left the U.S. food industry without access to a key ingredient. 

But Abdelgader told the press that he had explained to Booth that gum Arabic production was being held up by American sanctions, like the ban on international banking, and other financial issues.

 Booth made no statement to the press, embassy spokeswoman Caroline Schneider said: "The visit comes within the framework of our diplomatic efforts to develop ties with the Sudanese and to discuss all issues framing relations between the two nations.”

The deputy chairman of the Sudanese Union of Business Youssef Ahmed told Anadolu Agency that he discussed the effect of the sanctions consequences on the Sudanese economy with the American envoy. 

‘’We told the delegation how much the sanctions are damaging the Sudanese economy and affect the life of the Sudanese people,’’ Ahmed told Anadolu Agency.

 ‘’Some fields such as transportation, banking, quality control, oil, construction and communication have been badly affected by these sanctions,’’ he said.

However, it is possible that more sanctions may be lifted shortly, according to Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Ali Alsadig. 

‘’We are in a period of testing the American promises to lift the sanctions, so far we received some positive indications on that’’ the Sudanese diplomat told Anadolu Agency.

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