Mnuchin in Sudan for talks on economic aid

Visit comes after US removes country from blacklist in return for its recognition of Israel

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had a meeting with Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok in the capital Khartoum, shortly after his arrival.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had a meeting with Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok in the capital Khartoum, shortly after his arrival.PHOTO: ABDALLA HAMDOK/TWITTER

KHARTOUM • US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has arrived in Sudan for talks on future economic assistance, following Khartoum's removal from Washington's blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism.

"The United States Treasury chief Steve Mnuchin arrived today morning atop a high-ranking delegation, in the first such visit to Sudan," a government statement said yesterday.

Mr Mnuchin had a meeting with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok in the capital Khartoum, shortly after his arrival.

The Sudanese Premier shared a photo on Twitter of the delegation, describing US-Sudan relations as taking "historical leaps towards a better future".

The American Treasury chief also signed a memorandum of understanding with Sudan's Acting Finance Minister Heba Mohamed Ali on a previously announced bridge-loan facility. That will clear Sudan's arrears with the World Bank and allow the impoverished country access to more than US$1 billion (S$1.3 billion) in annual lending, her ministry said in a statement.

Mr Mnuchin is also scheduled to meet head of state General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the state-run SUNA news agency said before the visit.

Mr Mnuchin's talks with the leaders are expected to focus on Sudan's deteriorating "economic situation, and US aid to Sudan and debt relief", the government had said.

Sudan is struggling with a chronic hard currency shortage and galloping inflation. The economic woes have eroded the purchasing power of all social classes.

The country's external debt is estimated at US$60 billion.

The US on Dec 14 formally removed Sudan from its crippling blacklist as part of a quid pro quo for the mainly Arab country's normalisation of its relations with Israel.

Sudan agreed to the move in October, but said it would come into force only after its approval by a yet-to-be-formed Parliament.

In return, Washington has earmarked hundreds of millions of dollars in aid for Sudan.

Sudan's Justice Ministry said the total amount of direct and indirect US aid envisaged under the deal amounted to US$1.1 billion, in addition to another "billion dollars that the US has committed to transferring to the World Bank to pay arrears Sudan owes".

Sudan has been undergoing a rocky political transition since the army toppled veteran president Omar al-Bashir in April 2019, following months of mass protests against his rule.

The joint military-civilian administration charged with overseeing the transition has sought to end the country's international pariah status by forging closer relations with the US.

Prior to Sudan, Mr Mnuchin was in Egypt, where on Tuesday he discussed with President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi the Palestinian issue and the mega dam that Ethiopia is building on a Nile River tributary, according to a statement from the Egyptian presidency.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 07, 2021, with the headline 'Mnuchin in Sudan for talks on economic aid'. Print Edition | Subscribe