Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Britain to strengthen trade ties with Sudan

Britain's minister for Africa, Henry Bellingham, said that Britain is keen to strengthen its trade links with Sudan despite the US sanctions, and the pending arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir over the Darfur conflict.

"One of our top priorities is to increase trade with different countries around the world, particularly in Africa. The trade we have with Sudan at the moment is very good. Our bilateral trade is well over £100 million but we feel the scope for that trade can increase,” said Bellingham during a conference in Khartoum.

Bellingham told reporters that the oil trade was "very important", but also said that British oil producers were, "lagging behind in the exploration and exploitation of oil all over Sudan," where there is great potential.

It is estimated that Sudan produces approximately 500,000 b/d, and has reserves of 6 billion barrels between its north and south divide. More recently commercial trade with Sudan has been made difficult due to the US sanctions against Khartoum imposed, in 1997, on grounds of cultivating international terrorism.

"There are no UK sanctions, there are US sanctions," said Bellingham and maintained that Britain still wants to see “more UK banks taking a positive view toward Sudan.” In addition to the sanctions, the International Criminal Court (ICC) added three genocide counts to existing charges against Bashir for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

Talking about the outstanding arrest warrants, Bellingham said that the British government supports the ICC’s decision and encourages the government of Sudan to “collaborate with the court over the existing arrest warrants,” before adding that Britain does not have an “argument with the Sudanese people," and therefore feels it would be "wrong" for Britain "not to encourage the trade because trade equals wealth creation, jobs, prosperity, sustainability."

Source: Middle East Online

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