Darfur violences
Darfur violences

Sudan is asking the United States to permanently scrap 24-year-old sanctions, warning that the country could fall back into war if the sanctions are reapplied.

The Obama administration temporarily lifted the sanctions in January, tying their permanent removal to a series of conditions imposed on Sudan, including enhanced counterterrorism cooperation with the U.S., unhindered access for aid groups, and a cessation of conflict between armed groups in Sudan.

On Wednesday, the removal of sanctions will become permanent unless the Trump administration decides to reverse its predecessor's decision.

Speaking on state radio, Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour warned that fighting between the government and rebels — which has killed at least 300,000 people since 2003 — could resume if the U.S. switches the sanctions back on.

"If the sanctions continue, it will push the armed groups to harden their positions," Ghandour said. "If the sanctions are lifted, they will return to negotiation. If not, they will prepare for war."

He called reinstating the sanctions "illogical and unacceptable," adding, "We don't expect any other decision except lifting of the sanctions."

Rights groups skeptical

Some rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, have criticized what they see as negligible human rights improvement in Sudan during the six months of sanctions relief. Speaking at the Human Rights Commission in April, Human Rights Watch senior researcher Jehanne Henry called for the U.S. to take more time to monitor Sudan's progress before making a final decision on sanctions.

"U.S. relations should not be normalized without significant progress on human rights," Henry said. "[Obama's executive order] is clear that the suspension should only become permanent with Sudan's continued progress."

A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers agrees. Last week, they wrote to Trump, asking him to delay sanctions relief until the U.S. has the ability to monitor Sudanese compliance with human rights norms.

"Today's letter calls for a delay in sanctions relief for one year or until the Trump administration has ... named a special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan who can conduct a thorough and objective review," read the letter.

U.N. team sees 'marked improvement'

On Monday, the United Nations Country Team in Sudan voiced support for the removal of U.S. sanctions against Sudan, acknowledging "marked improvement in humanitarian access over the past six months ... as a result of improved engagement between the government of Sudan and humanitarian actors."

U.N. aid agencies help hundreds of thousands each year in Sudan's Darfur region, where government forces have been fighting various rebel groups since 2003. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in the region.

Sudan has also battled rebels in the states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile since 2011.

The U.S. imposed the sanctions in 1997 for Sudan's alleged support of Islamist terror groups. Osama bin Laden lived in Khartoum, Sudan's capital city, between 1992 and 1996.