German Visit Highlights Former Pariah Sudan’s Thaw With West
Sudan’s government touted the country’s return to the international community after years as a pariah, as Germany’s president became the highest ranking Western official to visit since Omar al-Bashir’s overthrow.
President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who as head of state has a mostly ceremonial role, arrived Thursday in the capital, Khartoum, for a two-day visit. He’s meeting the North African nation’s civilian and military rulers, as well as participants in last year’s protests that helped end Bashir’s 30-year reign.
It’s the latest sign of a dramatic thaw in relations between the West and Sudan, which under Bashir aspired to a form of Islamic governance and forged alliances with some of the U.S.’s regional enemies and militant groups. Washington has listed it a state sponsor of terrorism since 1993.
In recent weeks, the nation’s new leaders have gone all out to improve its image and have that designation dropped. As well as suggesting Sudan may normalize ties with Israel and allow Bashir to face the International Criminal Court on war-crimes charges, they have agreed to pay compensation to U.S. citizens for a 2000 attack on a warship in Yemen claimed by al-Qaeda.
Steinmeier’s visit is “Sudan’s real reintroduction to the international community,” Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, a lieutenant general who’s chairman of the country’s sovereign council, told reporters. Authorities asked for Germany’s help in their campaign to lift the terrorism listing and to improve the economy, he said after meeting the president.
Speaking alongside al-Burhan, the German president welcomed Sudan’s political changes and said it was “unfair to see the Sudanese people still economically suffering” because of the acts of Bashir’s regime. Germany is ready to encourage Sudan economically and is studying industrial projects, including in electricity, he said.
Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok earlier said the visit was “only the start of advanced relations” with European nations and beyond, calling on other officials to follow in Steinmeier’s footsteps.
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