WASHINGTON — The United States froze $700 million in direct assistance to Sudan’s government in response to Monday’s coup, and American officials demanded that the Sudanese military immediately release civilian leaders and restore the transitional government.
Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, acknowledged frustrations among Sudanese officials and citizens over the sluggish pace of the transition to full civilian rule and free elections, two years after the longtime President Omar Hassan al-Bashir was ousted. But he said the United States would hold to account “those who may be responsible for derailing Sudan’s path to democracy.”
Mr. Price also warned the military to “refrain from any violence against protesters, including the use of live ammunition,” amid reports that soldiers had fired on protests, killing at least three and wounding more than 80.
“Potentially, of course, our entire relationship with this entity in Sudan will be evaluated in light of what has transpired unless Sudan is returned to the transitional path,” Mr. Price told journalists in Washington.
He said the coup had taken the United States by surprise, though a special envoy, Jeffrey Feltman, was in Khartoum as recently as Sunday.
American officials have not been in touch with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok since he was taken into military custody, Mr. Price said, and they appeared not to know his whereabouts.
Humanitarian support to nongovernmental aid agencies working in Sudan will continue, Mr. Price said.
The $700 million that is being withheld is the full amount of economic support funding that the United States had committed to the transitional government, Mr. Price said. For it to be released, he said, Sudan’s military leaders will need to fully restore Mr. Hamdok and other civilian leaders to power. They will also need to release all people who have been detained and refrain from violence against protesters.
All “are tremendously important” to “any relationship we might have going forward,” Mr. Price said. He did not rule out the possibility of new sanctions in response to the military takeover.