By Lesley Wroughton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Thursday suspended discussions with Sudan on normalizing relations between the two countries after the military ousted President Omar al-Bashir and said it would run the country for two years.
The State Department, while declining to declare the takeover a coup, said it supported a peaceful and democratic Sudan and believed the Sudanese people should be allowed a peaceful transition sooner than only in two years.
"The Sudanese people should determine who leads them in their future," spokesman Robert Palladino said at a news briefing. "The Sudanese people have been clear that they have been demanding a civilian-led transition. They should be allowed to do so sooner than two years from now."
Military leaders in Sudan said presidential elections would take place after a two-year period of military rule following the ouster of Bashir.
The so-called "Phase II" talks between the United States and Sudan were initiated after the Obama administration moved to lift a 20-year-old trade embargo against Khartoum in recognition of the country's help in fighting Islamic State and progress in improving its human rights record.
The United States first imposed sanctions on Sudan in 1997, including a trade embargo and blocking the government’s assets, for human rights violations and terrorism concerns. It laid on more sanctions in 2006 for what it said was complicity in the violence in Darfur.
Asked whether the United States supported Bashir being put on trial before the International Criminal Court for Darfur atrocities, Palladino said: "We believe that the victims of Darfur deserve justice, that accountability is essential for achieving lasting piece in Darfur."
He declined to say whether the United States supported that justice being meted out by the ICC, which sits in The Hague. The Trump administration has said it will withdraw or deny visas of any ICC judges or prosecutors if the court investigated possible war crimes against U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton and Doina Chiacu; Editing by David Alexander and Dan Grebler)