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Sudan Welcomes First US Navy Ship Visit in Decades

FILE - Sea spray whips across deck of USS Winston Churchill guided missile destroyer (DDG 81).
FILE - Sea spray whips across deck of USS Winston Churchill guided missile destroyer (DDG 81).

U.S. naval forces are visiting Sudan for the first time in decades, following Sudan’s removal from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Sudanese officials cheerfully welcomed the missile guided destroyer USS Winston Churchill at Port Sudan Monday.

In a news conference, the top commander of Sudan’s naval forces, Alnairi Hassan, described the visit as a momentous occasion.

Hassan says Sudan is happy to receive the USS Winston Churchill destroyer. This visit is historic after 30 years of severed relations. The visit has big implications and represents the resumption of the Sudan-U.S. relationship and the return of the warship visits.

The United States removed Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism in December, after nearly three decades of sanctions stemming from Sudan’s support for al-Qaida leaders in the 1990s.

Officers from the U.S. African Command visited Sudan two months after the Trump administration lifted the sanctions, and they expressed an interest in “military-to-military engagement.”

The visit by the U.S. Navy began on February 24, when the first U.S. ship in decades arrived at a Sudanese port.

The director of maritime affairs for the U.S. Navy's Sixth Fleet, Rear Admiral Michael Baze, confirmed the U.S and Sudan’s interest to build a partnership between the two countries’ armed forced.

"The reason I’m here is because I want to learn more about your country and develop partnerships with your navy," Baze said. "We have many shared values. I’m honored and humbled by the progress the Sudan, Sudanese people have made over the last couple of years to work toward democratic principles, we support that. But the main reason I’m here is to become friends with our navy counterparts, and I look forward to working hand in hand.”

Simultaneous to the U.S. Navy visit, a Russian warship has docked at Port Sudan. Russia is waiting for Sudanese government approval to build its first navy base in Africa.