China grants Sudan $700m loan to build new Khartoum airport

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China has granted Sudan a $700 million loan to build a new airport for the capital Khartoum, state media said on Monday, highlighting close ties between China and the sanctions-hit African country.

Sudanese officials signed a five-year loan with China’s Export Import Bank, a state bank which supports government policy, Sudan’s state news agency SUNA said. Work at the airport would start at the end of the year and last three years.

The deal with Sudan comes at a time when airlines consider cutting back flights because of currency restrictions banning them repatriating profits. The central bank forces them to sell tickets to Sudanese in local currency, which has lost more than 100 percent against the dollar in the past two years.

In March, Dutch carrier KLM, part of KLM-Air France, stopped flying to Sudan, a country under U.S. sanctions.

Until South Sudan’s secession in 2011, foreign airlines enjoyed a bonanza as Sudan was flush with oil revenues and Khartoum hosted an army of aid workers and U.N. officials, many of which have relocated to the South since then.

Diplomats said China waited with the loan until Sudan agreed to allow South Sudan’s oil exports to transit through its Port Sudan port. Chinese firms dominate oilfields in both countries, and analysts say oil is partly used as payment for Chinese development aid.

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