British Ambassador Michael Aron after his meeting with a number of Sudanese exporters of Gum Arabic and the president of the Sudan Gum Arabic Board

This month I was extremely pleased to host my colleague Chris Trott on his first visit to Khartoum. Chris was recently appointed as UK Special Representative for Sudan and South Sudan and it’s great that he was able to come out to Khartoum so quickly. It was an excellent opportunity for Chris to acquaint himself with a wide range of interlocutors across Government, the opposition and within NGOs. As he describes so eloquently in his blog, Chris was moved by the sight of the Nile which he had last lived close to many years ago in Egypt. So it’s true what they say about the Nile waters drawing you back!
With both Government and opposition interlocutors, Chris emphasised the opportunity provided by the African Union-led peace process. He encouraged all parties to demonstrate the necessary flexibility to reach agreement on cessation of hostilities and humanitarian access in the Two Areas and Darfur, leading to permanent ceasefires and an inclusive national dialogue. (Click here for statement.)

Another important objective for Chris was to lay the ground for the next stage of the UK-Sudan Strategic Dialogue: this will be a high-level visit to London by a Government of Sudan delegation led by MFA Undersecretary Abdelghani Alnaeim. Chris and his team have lined up an excellent programme for the delegation which, in addition to official meetings, will include a public discussion on Sudan at Chatham House. The Strategic Dialogue talks encompass a wide range of issues, including UK-Sudan bilateral relations, conflict, migration, extremism, humanitarian and development assistance, human rights and the situation in the region.
Finally, the past week was busy from a commercial perspective as well. In my visit to the Gum Arabic Board, I learnt how despite the sanctions' exemption granted to gum Arabic produced in Sudan, exporters are still facing challenges due to the banks' unwillingness to work with Sudan.

Colleagues and I have also visited fantastic projects of two UK companies engaged in the provision of safe, clean water to the Sudanese people. The first one is the Biwater plant in Almanara which has been supplying clean water to almost 1.5-2 million people in North Omdurman since May 2010.  The second one is the new Hydro water treatment plant that was  launched on Saturday in Um Alqura locality of Al Gezira state, which aims to provide clean water to 5200 people. See pictures here.