Obama administration unveils new Sudan policy

Oct 19, 2009 11:42am

ABC News' Kirit Radia reports: The Obama administration unveiled its long-awaited Sudan policy today, which maintains a focus on the conflict in Darfur but broadens it to include implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which ended the country’s bloody civil war and is considered by experts to be the next powder keg in Africa’s largest country. The administration’s policy also favors engagement with the Khartoum government and outlines benchmarks and potential incentives for progress, while maintaining existing sanctions and the threat of additional pressure if parties backslide on commitments. “Achieving peace and stability in Sudan will not be easy; nor is success guaranteed.  But one thing is certain:  the problems in Sudan cannot be ignored or willed away.  Sitting on the sidelines is not an option.  It is up to us and our partners in the international community to make a concerted and sustained effort to help bring lasting peace and stability to Sudan,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in announcing the new policy today. Spokesmen for the Sudanese embassy in Washington and for the Government of Southern Sudan could not be reached for comment on the new policy. Clinton refused to describe the incentives being offered to encourage progress, saying they are classified, but she outlined three goals: an end to the conflict and human rights abuses in Darfur, the implementation of the CPA, and a Sudan that does not provide a safe haven for terrorists.  A senior administration official later told reporters the U.S. also expects Khartoum to take steps to reduce tensions between Sudan and neighboring Chad, improve the security situation in Darfur, and improve dialogue with rebel groups. The official said the State Department continues to urge Sudan to implement the CPA, including final demarcation of the boundaries between north and south, and complete preparations for an upcoming election. Clinton was flanked during the announcement by US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice and Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration, two officials who were key in formulating the new policy but who have clashed on the approach the administration should take. Gration had favored broadening US engagement with Sudan, while Rice advocated maintaining pressure on Khartoum. Gration also sought to focus attention on the implementation of the CPA. The new policy appears to tilt in Gration’s favor, though it does maintain existing measures until tangible progress is demonstrated. Gration and Rice also butted heads over the nature of the conflict in Darfur, specifically over describing the conflict as ongoing genocide. Last June, Rice said the conflict was genocide, but just two days later Gration said the region was experiencing only the “remnants of genocide,” reflective of his belief that such criticism of the Sudanese government was unhelpful in gaining their cooperation. At today’s press conference, Clinton referred to genocide, but said “at this point, the focus must be on how we move forward and on finding solutions.” A senior administration official later said that the Obama administration now wants to move beyond the rhetorical battle and “deal with the issues.” Several daunting challenges stand in the way of progress in Sudan and could complicate US efforts to push for peace. Despite the new policy’s emphasis on engagement, the US will still not work with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who was indicted earlier this year by the International Criminal Court for war crimes in Darfur. “We have no intention of working directly with President Bashir. We firmly believe that he should get himself a good lawyers, present himself to eh ICC and face the charges that have been leveled against him,” a senior administration official told reporters. Also unresolved during today’s policy announcement was Sudan’s place on the State Department’s State Sponsor of Terrorism list. A senior administration official told reporters today that the US wants to see “significant, tangible, concrete progress” on all issues of concern before the US takes steps on any one issue, including the terror listing. “It is not a quid pro quo for completion in one area,” the official said. “We have to see progress in all three areas for that to occur.”
As the Khartoum government and the Government of Southern Sudan try to implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, both sides continue to arm themselves in case of renewed conflict. A senior administration official today acknowledged concerns about arms sales to both sides, saying: “there is an arms embargo against the Khartoum government and we would like to see that arms embargo continued and fully implemented by everyone who signed onto it.” — Kirit Radia

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