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‘Sudan welcomes investments, technology transfers amid easing sanctions’

Sept. 11, 2017 - 18:15 By Joel Lee
Anticipating the lifting of US sanctions in the near future, Sudan is ready to reinvigorate its global engagement and draw industrial expertise, technology transfers and agricultural investment from Korea, the country’s No. 2 diplomat has said.

In an exclusive interview with The Korea Herald, Hamid Mohamed E. Momtaz, state minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the comprehensive embargo imposed on Khartoum since 1997 is likely to be abrogated by October.

In January, Washington partially lifted its sanctions pertaining to the general license for trade and financial transactions. The license was activated in July, allowing business to take place between Sudanese and other national entities.

“We have had direct discussions with our American counterparts on matters of preventing terrorism, improving humanitarian access, relations with South Sudan and other issues, and a cooperative momentum has been built to lift all remaining sanctions by October,” Momtaz said in an interview in Seoul last week. 

Hamid Mohamed E. Momtaz, state minister at Sudan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Joel Lee/The Korea Herald)

“The sanctions placed on our country since the end of the last century have adversely affected our politics and economic development to a great degree. But we have made much progress in these areas, particularly in stabilizing our defense capabilities to fight terrorism.”

Sudan was branded a state sponsor of terrorism in 1993 by Washington, and a comprehensive set of sanctions was imposed on the country in 1997 for its alleged backing of Islamist militants. US President Donald Trump said in July that more time was needed to review easing trade sanctions initiated by his predecessor Barack Obama, who put Khartoum on a six-month review period.

The Obama administration justified lifting the restrictions as part of Sudan’s improved counterterrorism efforts. But it made their permanent removal contingent upon progress in key areas of concern, encompassing cooperation on countering terrorism, preserving a cease-fire in conflict areas, ending support to South Sudanese armed opposition players and providing humanitarian aid to people in dire circumstances.

Turning to relations with Korea, Momtaz said Sudan and Korea have maintained close and cordial relations over the last 40 years, since the two countries made official their diplomatic relations.

Through his one-week visit to Korea from Sept. 3 to Sunday at the invitation of the Korea Foundation, “We were able to peer into Korea’s remarkable development experience following the 1950-53 Korean War. And I am confident that our government could make good use of the lessons we learned here on our visit,” he highlighted.

The Korea Foundation, under the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, invited 25 political, diplomatic and public administrative leaders from 24 countries to strengthen bilateral relations in their respective fields and enhance understanding of Korea through cultural activities, lectures and tours to leading business sites.

“Sudan is a large country (at 1.9 million square kilometers, the world’s 15th largest) with abundant natural resources. We also have a young and growing population with large potential for development. Harnessing our human resources with technology and training is key, and this is where Korean can play a critical role,” he asserted.

Korean technology and products are held in high regard in Sudan, the minister explained, noting that Korean smartphones, automobiles and other industrial goods are much sought after. Leading South Korea conglomerates such as Samsung, Hyundai, LG and Daewoo also operate in the Sudanese market of 39 million consumers and combined gross domestic product of $116 billion.

Through the Korea International Cooperation Agency, a vocational training center has been built in Khartoum and will soon enter into operation, transferring Korean technology and related education for the country’s industrial development. KOICA is also involved in establishing another vocational training center in the state of Al Jazirah, later covering an agricultural area of 1 million hectares.

“Our government is very keen to offer Korean companies an attractive investment environment with tax incentives,” he said, encouraging Korean enterprises’ participation in next year’s International Fair of Khartoum for trade exhibits, featuring industrial equipment, agricultural machinery, building materials, information technology solutions and energy technologies, among others.

“Agriculture and livestock industries have big potential for investment in Sudan, where we have bountiful land and a young and productive labor force,” he stressed.

Pointing to the national dialogue process -- a platform designed to discuss and harmonize opinions of all stakeholders covering conflict resolution, stabilization of the political system, creation of strong national identity, economic development, enhancing people’s freedom and foreign relations -- Momtaz, who has played a key role in the process, said the initiative has substantially improved the rights and freedoms of various groups and citizens.

“Sudan was a colony of Britain and Egypt during the first half of the 20th century. Our colonial past sowed the seeds of division, conflict and a civil war that engulfed our country after the independence in 1956. The national dialogue is an attempt to get down to the root causes of these conflicts and address remaining divisions for peace and stability,” he said.

By Joel Lee (