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US Senator Coons to visit Sudan to discuss Ethiopian relations

May 1 - 2021 KHARTOUM
US Senator Chris Coons (Ralph Alswang)
US Senator Chris Coons (Ralph Alswang)

US Senator Chris Coons, member of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Chris Van Hollen will arrive in Khartoum on Monday for a three-day visit.

The delegation is visiting in order to discuss the latest developments on the Sudanese-Ethiopian border and strengthen cooperation between the US and Sudan.

During their visit, they will meet the Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, Chairman of the Sovereignty Council, Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok, Minister of Justice, Nasreldin Abdelbari, and the Minister of Irrigation Yasir Abbas.

Coons and Van Hollen are expected to visit the Um Rakouba camp for Ethiopian refugees in El Gedaref during their visit. Um Rakouba and El Tuneideba camps reached maximum capacity at the start of this year, hosting about 25,000 people who fled the civil war in neighbouring Tigray in Ethiopia and crossed the border into eastern Sudan.

US special envoy

US diplomat Jeffrey Feltman was named a special envoy for the Horn of Africa on April 23, and will lead international efforts to address tensions between Ethiopia and Sudan and around the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said in a statement that Feltman's appointment "underscores the administration’s commitment to lead an international diplomatic effort to address the interlinked political, security, and humanitarian crises in the Horn of Africa."

Relations between Sudan and Ethiopia remain tense due to stalemate negotiations over the GERD and “the Ethiopian encroachment on Sudan’s eastern borders,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs, Maryam El Sadig El Mahdi, at the beginning of April. At the time, she stated that “Ethiopia has shown unacceptable intransigence in the GERD negotiations and that its decision to fill the Renaissance Dam again is contrary to international law.”

Sovereign immunity

Senator Coons sponsored the Sudan Claims Resolution Act, a bill passed through US Congress on December 21 which reinstates Sudan’s sovereign immunity and prevents future legal procedures against the country for attacks on US citizens that the ousted Al Bashir regime supported. Pending court cases filed by victims of the September 11 attacks are excluded from the bill.

Sudan and the US signed a bilateral claims settlement at the beginning of November to resolve “default judgements and claims based on allegations that Sudan’s prior regime supported acts of terrorism”.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Sudan at the end of August. He linked support for the civilian-led Sudanese government to normalisation of Sudan’s relations with Israel.


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