Khartoum (AFP) - Russia's top diplomat Sergei Lavrov held talks in Khartoum Thursday with Sudanese officials, pledging support for their call to lift long-standing UN sanctions on the African nation.
Lavrov's two-day visit is part of Russian efforts to shore up influence on the African continent amid broad international attempts to isolate Moscow following its invasion of Ukraine last year.
"We stand with the Sudanese side in its endeavour to lift the sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council," Lavrov told a press conference alongside Khartoum's acting foreign minister Ali al-Sadiq.
Sadiq emphasised the need for the two countries to cooperate at the United Nations and to push "for reform...in the Security Council".
Sudan has recently repeated calls for the body to lift sanctions and an arms embargo imposed during conflict in the country's Darfur region in 2005.
Lavrov held talks Thursday with army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who in October 2021 led a military coup that derailed Sudan's transition to civilian rule and triggered cuts to crucial Western aid.
He also met with Burhan's deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who commands the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.
The Russian diplomat's arrival in Sudan late Wednesday marked the latest stop in a tour that has included Mali and Mauritania.Last month, Lavrov visited Eritrea, Angola, Eswatini and South Africa.
Sudan and Russia have been "cooperating in the fields of economy and investment", Lavrov said, hailing Sudanese efforts "to attract Russian investments".
He said Moscow "appreciates the comfortable conditions" created for Russian mining companies operating in Sudan.
Counterpart Sadiq said Sudan would take part in a Moscow-Africa forum slated to take place in Russia in July.
Sudan relied militarily on Russia under strongman Omar al-Bashir, who was ousted in 2019 following three decades in power marked by international isolation and crippling US sanctions.
Its military leaders who toppled Bashir maintained ties with Moscow while a transitional government sought to repair relations with the United States and the West.
Following the 2021 coup, Russia told the UN Security Council that Burhan was needed to maintain stability, a diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity told AFP at the time.
Earlier this week, special envoys and representatives including from the United States, Norway, Britain, Germany and France arrived in Sudan.
US ambassador to Sudan John Godfrey said Wednesday on Twitter that the representatives came "to support" a December deal signed between Sudan's military leaders and civilian factions.
Washington delisted Sudan as a state sponsor of terror in December 2020, and last year appointed its first ambassador to Khartoum in nearly 25 years.
The United States has been pushing back against Russia's bid to expand influence among African countries.
In 2020, it slapped sanctions on Russian-based M Invest, which the US Treasury Department said served as a front in Sudan for Russian private military contractor Wagner and was awarded "concession agreements to explore gold mining sites" under Bashir.
Without mentioning Sudan, Lavrov on Thursday defended Wagner's operations in other parts of Africa, saying the group was deployed "upon the direct request of governments".
Last month, the US expanded sanctions on Wagner over its role in the Ukraine war and accused it of "committing widespread human rights abuses and extorting natural resources" in African countries.
Sudan has consistently denied the presence of Wagner on its territory.
In December 2020, Moscow announced a 25-year deal with Sudan to build and operate a Red Sea naval base that was negotiated under Bashir.
In 2021, Sudan's military said the deal was under "review".
Lavrov said Thursday that the issue was awaiting legislative approval.
Sudan has had no parliament since Bashir's ouster.