Kerry meets Sudan counterpart on South Sudan, Darfur
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Secretary of State John Kerry met his Sudanese counterpart for talks on Monday on the South Sudan peace process and conflict-hit areas like Darfur, but did not raise U.S. concerns over the government's crackdown on protesters, the State Department said.
The talks with Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti focused on peace between Sudan and South Sudan, and the need to address the root causes of conflicts in Darfur, Blue Nile and southern Kordofan regions of the country.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Kerry did not repeat the United States' concerns about excessive force used last week against protesters demanding the resignation of veteran President Omar Hassan Bashir.
"It was not a topic in the meeting," Psaki said. "This was not a long meeting, they discussed a range of issues and clearly we've condemned it and continue to given our concern."
About 34 people have been killed and 700 arrested during a week of unrest in central Sudan over fuel subsidy cuts. In a statement on Friday, condemning the "brutal crackdown" on protests and expressing deep concern over the "heavy handed approach."
The subsidy cuts have been driven by a severe financial crunch since the secession of oil-producing South Sudan in 2011, which deprived Khartoum of three-quarters of the crude output it relied on for state revenues and dollars used for food imports.
Bashir has remained in power for almost 25 years despite armed rebellions, U.S. trade sanctions, an economic crisis and an indictment from the International Criminal Court for war crimes in the Western Darfur region.
Khartoum summoned the U.S. charge d'affairs in Khartoum on Friday to protest against the United States' failure to issue Bashir a visa to attend the U.N. General Assembly in New York.
Bashir's indictment for war crimes by the ICC was one of the considerations in the visa application, the State Department had said.
Psaki said Karti raised the issue of Bashir's visa during Monday's talks with Kerry. "It came up but was certainly far from a focus of the meeting," she said, declining to elaborate on the discussion or whether the United States had declined the visa application.
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