- The Washington Times - Monday, November 20, 2017

Sudan has taken delivery of the first tranche of advanced Russian-made fighter jets into its military arsenal, only weeks after the Trump administration opted to relieve Khartoum from some of the harshest international political and economic sanctions levied against any country,

Sudanese military officials declined to comment on how many Russian-made Su-35 fighters were delivered on Monday, or how many of the fighter jets in total Khartoum agreed to purchase in the deal with Moscow, inked in March.

The fighters will be used to “contribute to the consolidation of Sudan’s defenses and provide it protection from any threat,” Sudanese deputy air force commander, Salahuddin Abdul Khaliq Saeed, told Sputnik News. Monday’s deliveries make Sudan the first Arab nation to fly the Russian-made fighters in its military.

News of the weapons delivery comes days before President Omar Ahmed al-Bashir’s first diplomatic visit to Moscow since the lifting of international sanctions.

“The visit will witness the signing of important agreements in the fields of oil and mining and benefit from Russian technology and will open the way for Russia to benefit more from our diverse resources,” Fathi Madibou, vice president of the Foreign Relations Committee at the Sudanese National Assembly, told Al Arabiya English Monday.

Kharotum’s overtures toward Russia come after the Trump White House took the landmark step of ending sanctions against Sudan, which had been in place since 1996. The decision came after years of lobbying by Khartoum to lift the sanctions, tied to International Criminal Court charges of war crimes and genocide in connection to the country’s brutal campaign to suppress rebel groups in the western region of Darfur.

The country still remains on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, but recent reports claim the White House is also considering lifting that designation as well in the coming months.

Prior to the administration’s decision, Khartoum had sought to portrayed itself as a key ally in the U.S. war on terrorism, passing on vital information to U.S. and allied intelligence agencies on activities of the Islamic State in Libya, Egypt, Somalia and elsewhere in northern and East Africa.

“Sudan has a long history of supporting … countries in the region and outside the region” with military, intelligence and other operations, Sudanese Ambassador Maowia Osman Khalid said in an exclusive interview with The Washington Times last May.

Sudan is “a close partner with the United States in counterterrorism [operations] around the globe,” Mr. Khalid said at the time. “Our role is not limited; rather, it could be expanded in different capacities and missions,” he added, noting Khartoum could increase support on the ground in conjunction with U.S. forces.

• Carlo Muñoz can be reached at cmunoz@washingtontimes.com.

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