Britain's Foreign Secretary James Cleverly leaves Pacific early to focus on Sudan

James Cleverly left from New Zealand a day before he was due to meet with his counterpart, Nanaia Mahuta.

Published - April 21, 2023 11:42 am IST - Wellington

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly. File

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly. File | Photo Credit: AP

Britain's Foreign Secretary James Cleverly cut short a Pacific tour on April 21 to return to Britain and deal with the deteriorating situation in Sudan.

Sudan's military ruled out negotiations with a rival paramilitary force on April 20, saying it would only accept its surrender as the two sides continued to battle in Central Khartoum and other parts of the country.

Also Read: No respite in Sudan as truce falls apart, rivals battle

The British High Commission said Mr. Cleverly had been dealing with the Sudan situation from its offices in Wellington by making a series of calls to key partners overnight. Mr. Cleverly left from New Zealand a day before he was due to meet with his counterpart, Nanaia Mahuta.

He'd arrived in New Zealand earlier than scheduled on Thursday on his first official visit to the country after skipping a planned visit to Samoa and flying in directly from the Solomon Islands.

“It's with real regret that due to the ongoing situation in Sudan I've had to cut the visit short," Mr. Cleverly said in a statement. “I've learned a lot about the region, its opportunities and challenges."

“I've spoken to Foreign Minister Mahuta and told her how disappointed I am to have had to leave early and we've agreed we'll reschedule as soon as we can," he said. “I'm very much looking forward to coming back soon.”

The High Commission said that when Mr. Cleverly returns to Britain, he will continue overseeing the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office response to the violence in Sudan by providing support to staff on the ground and consular services for British nationals.

Britain has historic ties to Sudan. In an unusual arrangement, Britain and Egypt jointly ruled Sudan from 1899 until it gained independence in 1956. But these days, Sudan is not among the group of 56 Commonwealth nations that include many former British colonies.

Sudan’s paramilitary RSF agrees to 24-hour ceasefire

Ms. Mahuta, who flew to Samoa on Wednesday to meet with Mr. Cleverly and Samoan Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata'afa, said she'd offered her full support to Mr. Cleverly.

Ms. Mahuta had earlier said that during the planned meeting with Mr. Cleverly, she would celebrate the recent achievements in the bilateral relationship, as well as discuss cooperating together in the Pacific and on global issues including climate change and the war in Ukraine. New Zealand and Britain agreed to a free trade deal in 2021.

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