Trump announces move to take Sudan off state sponsors of terrorism list

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Issue separate from normalization with Israel – American officials

A Sudanese protester carries their national flag as they march in a demonstration to mark the anniversary of a transitional power-sharing deal with demands for quicker political reforms in Khartoum, Sudan August 17, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH)

A Sudanese protester carries their national flag as they march in a demonstration to mark the anniversary of a transitional power-sharing deal with demands for quicker political reforms in Khartoum, Sudan August 17, 2020

(photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH)

The US reached a deal with Sudan on Monday to remove the North African country from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, US President Donald Trump announced.

“Great news!” Trump tweeted. “New government of Sudan, which is making great progress, agreed to pay $335 million to US terror victims and families. Once deposited, I will lift Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. At long last, justice for the American people and big step for Sudan!”

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok thanked Trump, taking to Twitter to say that the US president’s “tweet and that notification are the strongest support to Sudan’s transition to democracy and to the Sudanese people. As we’re about to get rid of the heaviest legacy of Sudan’s previous, defunct regime, I should reiterate that we are peace-loving people and have never supported terrorism.”
While the US favors normalization between Israel and Sudan, a US official reiterated on Monday what has consistently been the American position: that it is a separate matter from Khartoum’s designation.

Still, the leadership of Sudan’s transitional government, instituted after ruler Omar al-Bashir was toppled last year, has been discussing ties with Israel in conjunction with its talks with the US about economic aid and relief from $3 billion in debt, which Sudan could only receive after the removal of its terrorism sponsor designation. Diplomatic relations with Israel were discussed in a late-night cabinet meeting in Khartoum on Sunday.

The civilian leadership in the Sudanese transitional government, led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, has resisted diplomatic relations with Israel, while the military leadership, with chairman of the Sudanese Sovereignty Council Abdel Fatah al-Burhan and his No. 2, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, favor such ties.

Asked about normalization on Army Radio, Finance Minister Israel Katz said: “There are contacts facilitated by the Americans, and they’re complicated. I hope the intensive contacts bear fruit.”

The US put Sudan on its list of state sponsors of terrorism in 1993, while under Bashir’s rule, because it harbored al-Qaeda terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, among others, and later helped Iran transfer arms to Hamas and Hezbollah. The new government has cooperated with US counterterrorism efforts.

The designation blocks the transitional government from accessing urgently needed debt relief and foreign financing, while Sudan’s growing inflation and devaluation of its currency remain major challenges to the new government.

The Trump administration’s deal with Sudan has faced obstacles in getting the US Congress to pass laws granting Sudan immunity from lawsuits from more victims of terrorism after it pays the $335 million in compensation.

Democrats and Republicans support removing Sudan from the list as a way to foster democracy in Sudan and encourage populations opposing tyrannical regimes. But Democratic senators are split on the details, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Bob Menendez seeking compensation for victims of 9/11 and bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

A Sudanese organization called “The People’s Initiative to Normalize Ties” on Sunday said a poll they conducted found 83% of Sudanese people support diplomatic ties with Israel, KAN News reported.

The organization reportedly has the approval of Burhan and Dagalo to prepare the public for normalization.

In addition, a delegation of 40 athletes, artists and businessmen from Sudan, led by former MP and businessman Abu al-Qasim Bartham, plans to visit Israel in November to “break the psychological barriers” between the countries, Bartham told KAN News last week.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Burhan in February, and Sudan subsequently allowed Israeli planes to fly over its airspace.

Normalization between Israel and Sudan would be deeply symbolic, as Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, was the site of the 1967 Arab League decision on the Three No’s – no recognition, no negotiations and no peace with Israel.

Ties between Israel and another Muslim country also would be a diplomatic victory for the Trump administration, which fostered the Abraham Accords between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

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