Khartoum — ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Thank you. Let me say it has been an honor to meet here today with the Prime Minister. And I also enjoyed meeting earlier today with Foreign Minister Ghandour and Humanitarian Affairs Commissioner Adam. I thank them and, in fact, I thank all of the Sudanese people for their hospitality. Our visit is the latest step in an expanded bilateral engagement between the United States and Sudan that began last year. It is evidence of the Administration's commitment to continue engagement with Sudan in all areas of our bilateral relationship and to sustaining and advancing progress in that relationship.
Today, we discuss the importance of Sudan sustaining and building on its recent positive actions in multiple areas. These areas include maintaining a cessation of hostilities in the conflict areas, continuing improvement of humanitarian access throughout Sudan, and maintaining cooperation with the United States on both regional conflicts and regional counterterrorism threats.
As I indicated to the Prime Minister, we note that the Government of Sudan has taken meaningful steps to improve humanitarian access. The government is continuing a gradual reversal of longstanding impediments and I urge the government to accelerate its work in this regard.
We are hopeful that the extended sanctions review period will provide an opportunity for further progress and that the review period will provide for consistent implementation of recent improvements and reforms in all the states.
I also urge the Government of Sudan to improve protections for human rights and religious freedom and to ensure its full adherence to UN Security Council resolutions on North Korea.
Yesterday, I visited El Fasher in North Darfur. I saw firsthand the importance of access for humanitarian workers. I saw firsthand signs of clear progress, progress that we hope will continue. We will continue to work in support of the humanitarian community's efforts to provide critical assistance to those in need, including internally displaced peoples. America will not walk away from our commitment to humanitarian assistance and we will always stand with people everywhere when a disaster or crisis strikes, for that is who we are as Americans.
My visit to Sudan shows not only USAID's continuing concern and support for the people of Sudan, but also our longstanding legacy of support dating back to the early 1960s. And I am here today to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to engaging with Sudan.
It is clear that we all share a goal with Sudan of peace internally and with its neighbors, working together to improve security and prosperity in the region. And now I am happy to take questions.
First question of the evening.
MR. MCCLESKEY: First question will be Carol Morello from The Washington Post.
QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, from your perspective, specifically where does Sudan need to accelerate its progress in meeting the U.S. conditions for lifting sanctions by the 12th of October? And also, when you raised the issue of religious freedom with the Sudanese, did they give you any assurances that religious minorities here, particularly Christians, and other minorities, will have the ability to practice their faith as they see fit, without any obstacles from the government?
ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: The conversation that we had today, in recent days, as well as these last months, has been on all five tracks because we view all five tracks as being essential to the decision that will come for October 12. It is also well-known that USAID in particular -- we are particularly concerned -- it is important to us -- humanitarian access, and thus the visit that we made at El Fasher yesterday. And so, seeing firsthand questions of the humanitarian access and the chance to raise that with members of the community, UN organizations, and even today, that is an area of particular concern to us. But our discussions have been on all five tracks. With respect to religious freedom, in fact, we have been having meetings with representatives of the faith community, the religious community, not just Christian organizations, but also attorneys who work in the area of religious freedom. And we have had questions. We have asked questions and have, of this government, received assurances. But, again, this is a conversation that will take place. We'll learn more, we'll have more conversations to prepare ourselves for a decision coming in early October.
MR. MCCLESKEY: We have a question from (inaudible).
FEMALE SPEAKER: He said that everything has been covered by Mr. Ambassador.
MR. MCCLESKEY: Then happy to take a second question from Lesley Wroughton from Reuters.
QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, then we were wondering what -- whether there was anything discussed today on next steps with us if -- you know, after October 12. Were -- was any discussions on -- you know, on kind of how the -- you would take the bilateral relationship further?
ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: I wouldn't want to get ahead of the decision that will be made for October 12, but I think both sides recognize that there were tremendous opportunities to work together if the impediment of the sanctions can be lifted. In other words, if we on our side are convinced that there's been enough progress on all five tracks, as well as compliance with UN resolutions as we have talked about, and protection of religious freedoms, we are hoping, then, that that would bring in a new era for a new relationship in which many issues can be taken on.