President Obama yesterday informed the United States Congress that he has decided to renew the economic sanctions against Sudan. The sanctions have to be renewed each year by issuance of such a notice.The Obama Administration has shown some openness to the idea of easing sanctions; on 20 October the Administration changed regulations to allow US agricultural firms to export equipment to Sudan. Despite this move, the embargo is an established part of US law and easing it further would involve political and legal difficulties.
Since 1997, three US presidents have maintained the embargo by authority of the Emergency Economic Powers Act. In the decision dated yesterday, 1 November, Obama stated that the Government of Sudan’s policies pose an “extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”
White House spokesman Tommy Vietor told journalists that any changes in the status of embargo will be contingent upon Sudan’s response to US pressure over implementation of the North-South peace agreement (CPA). Vietor said: “the United States will review the Sudanese government’s progress on resolving outstanding [CPA] implementation issues as well as other relevant circumstances, to include improving security and humanitarian access in Darfur.”
Obama’s decision follows Sudan’s demand to lift the economic embargo as part of a deal with South Sudan over the oil-rich Abyei region. President Obama on Friday spoke by phone to former South African President Thabo Mbeki, who is heading the effort to mediate the Abyei dispute between Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement. It is not clear whether the White House announcement was deliberately timed to coincide with these Abyei talks or whether it was only a routine annual announcement.