Sudanese Army chief Lieutenant General Kamal Abdel Marouf received an invitation yesterday to attend for the first time a counterterrorism conference organised by the US administration in Washington. The invitation marks an improvement in cooperation between the two countries.
US Chargé d'Affaires in Khartoum Stephan Koutsis extended the invitation to Abdel Marouf in the presence of US military attaché Colonel Adam Kordish, the Sudan Tribune reported. Numerous senior military officials from other countries are also expected to attend the event. After the meeting, Koutsis stressed the importance of continued exchanges between the US and Sudan to strengthen bilateral relations.
The invitation came following news last week that the US has kept Sudan on its blacklist of states that support terrorism. The African nation was placed on the list in 1993 over allegations that it was harbouring Islamist militants working against regional and international targets.
Sudan has been campaigning for many months to be delisted, as the designation has a negative impact on the country's international reputation and investment projects. The state is particularly looking to benefit from debt relief and international development aid from which it is banned while it remains on the list. The US has previously acknowledged that Sudan is a partner in counter-terrorism and has served American interests through various operations.
Frosty relations between the US and Sudan have been thawing over the past year, after the former administration lifted 20-year-long sanctions last October. US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan subsequently visited Khartoum in November to launch the second phase of the normalisation process and pointed to the need for reforms of human rights and religious freedom.
Earlier this month, Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir also reshuffled his cabinet, dissolving the government and appointing several new ministers. Although the stated aim of the move was to fix Sudan's crisis-hit economy, the reshuffle is believed to be one of the conditions stipulated by the US for further cooperation.
Sudan is preparing for elections in 2020, in which Al-Bashir is expected to run for a third term, a move met with opposition from other political parties in the country.