Kerry optimistic on Sudan breakthrough
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) says he is hopeful that a new White House offer he relayed to Sudan's leaders will break the impasse over fulfilling a 2005 peace accord that is in danger of fraying.
Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, made an unannounced trip to Sudan over the weekend to meet with its vice-president and leaders of south Sudan. He carried a U.S. offer to hasten Sudan's removal from the list of state sponsors of terror if Khartoum complies with the peace accord.
Under that pact, the mostly black population of south Sudan will have the opportunity to break away from the predominantly Islamic, Arab north in a January 9 referendum. A companion referendum is supposed to allow the oil-rich border town of Abiyei to decide which side to join.
Preparations are behind schedule, though, and many analysts accuse the north of foot-dragging.
Kerry said in a telephone interview from Syria Monday that the White House asked him to relay the offer to the Sudanese. He had visited that country several weeks ago.
"There was a sense we could, by putting something on the table, address some of the concerns of the NCP [ruling National Congress Party] to try and jump-start the will to compromise on both sides," Kerry said.
"I really just tried to convey to them, all of them, that the president was prepared to move the process by putting some things on the table that hopefully could address the concerns of the NCP," Kerry said.
The senator added that Sudan's ruling party felt thhat the George W. Bush administration had broken its promises. The Bush administration had considered the North-South peace accord a foreign-policy victory. But U.S.-Sudan relations soured after a violent campaign erupted against civilians in the western region of Darfur, which left as many as 450,000 dead from attacks and disease.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was indicted on genocide charges by the International Criminal Court for the Darfur killings.
The Sudanese said they were "grateful for the offer, they take it seriously. They have indicated they are prepared to further negotiate around it," Kerry said.
Under the new offer, the Obama administration would drop Sudan from the terrorist list as early as next July, if it coooperated with the two referendums and negotiations on sharing oil revenue and demarcating the border. Previously, the Obama administration had said Sudan wouldn't be removed from the list until it also resolved the situation in Darfur.
Sudan has been on the terrorism list since 1993, but now works more closely with Washington on terrorism issues.
Mary Beth Sheridan
| November 8, 2010; 5:54 PM ET
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