Newly arrived ambassador tells Sudan Russian naval base would have ‘consequences’
A few weeks after his arrival, the first American ambassador in 25 years has already threatened Sudan with “consequences” if Khartoum followed through on a deal with Moscow for a Russian naval base on the Red Sea.
“All countries have the sovereign right to decide which other countries to partner with, but those choices of course have consequences,” Ambassador John Godfrey told Sudanese daily Al-Tayar on Tuesday.
The Khartoum government had signed an agreement with Russia in 2017 to establish a naval base in Port Sudan, on the Red Sea. President Omar al-Bashir has since been overthrown in a coup and imprisoned. Godfrey warned the new government against going ahead with the deal, saying it “Will harm the interests of Sudan.”
He is “essential to say that the international isolation around Russia and the President [Vladimir] Putin is currently increasing due to the invasion of Ukraine,” Godfrey told the outlet, according to Middle East Eye. He also told Al-Tayar that he wanted to see a civilian government in charge of Sudan.
Godfrey is the first US ambassador to Sudan since 1996, when Washington closed the embassy in Khartoum. Although it reopened in 2002, it was run by a series of acting charge d’affaires for 20 years, until Godfrey presented his credentials on September 1.
Under the deal, Russia would build a base capable of accommodating nuclear-powered ships and lease the site for 25 years, with automatic 10-year extensions unless either party objects. . Port Sudan handles about 90% of the country’s maritime trade and a presence there would allow Russia to keep tabs on the nearby Bab el-Mandeb Strait.
Moscow decided to reactivate the agreement in November 2020, but the Sudanese government sought to negotiate in July 2021, apparently after the United States offered it a “Multi-million dollar aid package.”
Letting Moscow establish a base in the Red Sea would be “lead to further isolation of Sudan at a time when most Sudanese want to be closer to the international community”, Godfrey told the newspaper, using the understatement for the United States and its allies.
Prior to his confirmation, Godfrey served as the State Department’s acting counterterrorism coordinator and had previously served in Saudi Arabia, Libya, Syria and Iraq.