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Despite Frustration, US Meets With Sudanese Defense Minister Over South Sudan Conflict

Salva Kiir, president of semi-autonomous South Sudan, waits to receive Omar al Bashir on his visit to the southern capital Juba.
Salva Kiir, president of semi-autonomous South Sudan, waits to receive Omar al Bashir on his visit to the southern capital Juba. Date: January, 2011. (Photo: Al Jazeera English. CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)

The U.S. has grown increasingly wary of South Sudan’s failure to form a national unity government, yet U.S. officials have refused to take firm action despite previous warnings.

Sudanese Defense Minister Jamal Edlin Omar met on Wednesday with the US’ envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, Donald Booth, who is also the military attaché with the American Embassy in Sudan’s capital of Khartoum.

According to the Sudanese news Arabic-language website, Sudanakhbar, the meeting was held at Omar’s office in the capital of Khartoum where the officials discussed current American efforts for helping South Sudan’s armed rival parties reach a compromise.

Omar was reported as having briefed his American guest on the latest Sudanese efforts towards forming a transitional consensus government in South Sudan. He also shared with Booth their efforts to resolve a number of economic problems endured by war-displaced inhabitants of the conflict zones in South Sudan.

The Defense Minister of Sudan also reportedly told the US official that his country is interested in normalizing ties with the US at various levels, after Washington removes Sudan from the American list of countries that support or harbor terrorism.

Sudanakhbar quoted Booth as expressing Washington’s wish to rebuild some credible relations with Khartoum in a way that would serve the interests of the people of Sudan.

The American high-ranking official reportedly said that Washington is interested in helping the warring parties in South Sudan reach a compromise to bring the end of their long-time conflict. He further noted that talks with the concerned bodies are underway.

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The U.S. has, however, grown frustrated with South Sudan’s failure to form a national unity government. Bryan Hunt, director of the office of Sudan and South Sudan with the U.S. State Department, told reporters in early October at the U.S. Institute of Peace that his administration does not want to continue to hear arguments for why more time must be given.

Hunt also suggested that the U.S. would reconsider its relationship with South Sudan and hinted at possibly considering imposing sanctions, though he maintained the U.S. would not impose economic sanctions.

South Sudan, which is labeled the youngest sovereign state in the world, was established back in 20011 following more than two decades of conflict with the regime of the recently deposed Sudanese dictator president, Omar al-Bashir.

Since declaring its independence from Sudan, the new state has been fraught with internal conflict and descended into a war between the state’s President Salva Kiir and his former Vice President Riek Machar, rendering millions of people into starvation and abuse, including sexual mutilation and murder.

Kiir accused Machar of plotting a coup against him in 2013, leading to the conflict between the two sides. Machar has denied the allegations.

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Rami Almeghari

Rami Almeghari is a freelance independent writer, journalist and lecturer, based in the Gaza Strip. Rami has contributed in English to several media outlets worldwide, including print, radio and TV. He can be reached on facebook as Rami Munir Almeghari and on email as [email protected]

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