Asharq Al-Awsat talks to US Special Envoy to Sudan Princeton Lyman
By Mohammed Ali Salih
Washington, Asharq Al-Awsat - Asharq Al-Awsat spoke with US Special Envoy to
Sudan, Princeton Lyman, in Washington, on a number of issues including
Darfur, the conflict that is raging in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile, as
well as US - Sudanese relations. Lyman was involved in mediation talks
between north and south Sudan prior to the secession of South Sudan. He
previously served as US Ambassador to Nigeria and South Africa, and is a
former Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs.
The following is the full text of the interview:
[Asharq Al-Awsat] The US administration has welcomed the Arab Spring which
has overthrown a number of dictatorships in the Middle East and led to free
and fair elections being held. Are you calling for the Arab Spring to
encompass Sudan, as well?
[Lyman] This is not part of our agenda in Sudan. Frankly, we do not want to
see the ouster of the [Sudanese] regime, nor regime change. We want to see
the regime carrying out reform via constitutional democratic measures.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Would you not characterize Omar al-Bashir as a military
[Lyman] We are not dealing with al-Bashir directly, particularly as the
International Criminal Court [ICC] has accused him of violating human rights
and being responsible for war crimes and genocide in Darfur.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] How is it possible for Washington to engage with the
al-Bashir government, but not deal directly with Omar al-Bashir himself?
[Lyman] Our position is clear with regards to the ICC accusations [against
Omar al-Bashir] but we are now concentrating on fostering stability in all
parts of Sudan and South Sudan, as well as establishing friendly relations
between the two after long years of conflict.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] The opposition Sudan People's Liberation Movement [SPLM]
in northern Sudan recently said that it expects to receive US support to
overthrow the al-Bashir regime, in the same manner that Washington helped
the SPLM to secure the secession of South Sudan. What is your opinion of
[Lyman] As I said, it is not in our interests to see the ouster of the
regime in Sudan, for this will only create more problems. The current
problems are more than enough. What we are interested in is developing the
democratic system [in Sudan]. Yes, we helped them in the past, as this was
in our interests. However what is in our interests now is stability in Sudan
and South Sudan.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] The SPLM has said that it wants to bring the Arab Spring
to Sudan. Do you oppose this?
[Lyman] We want to see freedom and democracy [in Sudan], but not necessarily
via the Arab Spring.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is your opinion of the Sudanese Revolutionary Front
[SRF] that recently stated that it wants to forcibly overthrow the al-Bashir
[Lyman] The US government opposes any military action against the Sudanese
government, and believes this will only incite more conflict and problems,
and will threaten the existence and unity of Sudan, and may even spread to
South Sudan and threaten its existence and unity as well. Therefore, we are
committed to the unity of [northern] Sudan, and we call on all parties to
work peacefully to ensure this.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Has the US put pressure on organizations such as the SRF?
[Lyman] We have not put pressure on them, but we are trying to convince
them. We told them that they must put forward political programs via
constitutional and democratic means to reform Sudan. We told them that
expressions such as "forcibly overthrowing the regime" and "the new South
Sudan in the north" are not helpful. We asked them: how can you expect the
Khartoum government to negotiate with you when you say that you want to
forcibly overthrow it?
[Asharq Al-Awsat] There are claims that the South Sudan government is
providing aid and support to such groups. Is this true?
[Lyman] Last month, following a request by President Obama, we - US Deputy
National Security Adviser Denis McDonough and myself - visited Khartoum and
Juba. In Khartoum, we told them [the Sudan government] of our concern
regarding the continuance of the fighting in South Kordofan and the Blue
Nile. Whilst in Juba, we informed them [the South Sudan government] of the
necessity that they respect the sovereignty of Sudan, including ending their
support of the SPLM in the north, in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Can you tell us what happened during the Washington
Workshop on Peace in Darfur which took place recently behind closed doors?
[Lyman] Yes, the deliberations were closed, but I can tell you that they
were successful. We wanted to hear the opinions of all parties following the
Doha Agreement. The most important note for us was that the differences
between the Darfur movements - those that support the government, and those
that oppose it - were less than they were in the past. These were not like
the sharp differences that were present during the Abuja Summit [in Nigeria
[Asharq Al-Awsat] We have heard news that Washington intends to seek to
solve the Darfur crisis away from the Qatari efforts in this regard. Is this
[Lyman] This is not true. We welcomed the Doha Agreement, and we paid
tribute to the role played by Qatar and are prepared to cooperate with it.
However we have repeatedly stated that the most important things in such
agreements is not their signing, or celebration, but rather their
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is the next step to resolving the Darfur crisis,
following the Qatari efforts in this regard?
[Lyman] We told the Sudanese government not to close the door to the
movements that refused to sign the Doha Agreement. Whilst we told these
movements to focus on a political solution, rather than a military one.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] When will Sudan be removed from the US State Department's
list of "state sponsors of terrorism"?
[Lyman] This all depends on the policies of the al-Bashir government.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Omar al-Bashir has said that Washington changes the
goal-posts whenever his government comes close to achieving this. Is this
[Lyman] On the contrary, whenever we are close to resolving these problems -
including when we looked at removing Sudan from the state sponsors of
terrorism list - al-Bashir creates another problem. This began with the
problem in South Sudan, and then Darfur, and now we are seeing the problems
in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] So, what must al-Bashir do to secure Sudan's removal from
the US State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism?
[Lyman] There must be an end to the war in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan,
negotiations with the opposition there, as well as the door being opened to
humanitarian aid. Yes, I said that we oppose military action on the part of
the opposition; however on the other hand, the al-Bashir government must be
committed to solving these problems peacefully.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] If the problems in Darfur and South Kordofan are resolved,
will the US Congress withdraw the sanctions it has imposed on Sudan?
[Lyman] This is a complicated issue. As for removing Sudan from the list of
state sponsors of terrorism, the President - based on the recommendation of
the Secretary of State - can do this. However the majority of sanctions that
have been imposed on Sudan were the result of decisions made by the US
Congress regarding the Darfur crisis, and only Congress can remove these
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Is there any hope that Congress might do so?
[Lyman] I recently met with members of Congress, and they said that there is
no chance of this happening so long as there are problems in Darfur, the
Blue Nile, and South Kordofan.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Can you confirm that the South Sudan delegation walked out
of the negotiations with Sudan in Addis Ababa yesterday after Khartoum cut
off Juba's oil exports?
[Lyman] I am not certain of this. There is some information claiming this is
what happened, whilst other information has said the opposite. Whether this
is true or not, both sides should be aware that closing the oil pipeline
will be very harmful. In any case, I believe that there have been many
positives in the Addis Ababa negotiations.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Can you give us an example?
[Lyman] For the first time, both parties put forward a number of clear
proposals to solve the oil problem. South Sudan has proposed to pay 5
billion dollars [to Sudan] over the next three years, including two billion
in oil and three billion towards the external debt of both countries. Whilst
Sudan's proposal was for 7 billion dollars. Of course, there is a clear
difference between the two proposals, but so long as clear and definite
proposals are being made, this represents progress in our view.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Members of the National Umma Party of Sudan, and the
Democratic Unionist Party [DUP], have finally joined the al-Bashir
government, whilst the sons of [DUP leader] Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani and
[National Umma Party leader] Sadiq al-Mahdi were sworn in as aides to
Sudanese President Bashir al-Assad. Do you have any comment on these
[Lyman] I welcome this development.within the scope of my previous comments,
namely that we need a constitutional and democratic transition in Sudan.
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Received on Mon Dec 05 2011 - 19:22:53 EST