Trump Says U.S. to Remove Sudan From State Terrorism Sponsors List After Payment to Victims

The Sudanese gov't 'agreed to pay $335 million to U.S. terror victims and families,' the president says, a move that could bring closer the establishment of official ties between Israel and Sudan

Noa Landau
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U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo meets with Sudan's ruling military council leader in Khartoum, Sudan, August 2020.
U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo meets with Sudan's ruling military council leader in Khartoum, Sudan, August 2020.Credit: Sovereign Council Media Office
Noa Landau

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday the United States would remove Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism once Khartoum sets aside $335 million for payments for American victims.

The deal could also set in motion steps by Sudan toward establishing diplomatic relations with Israel, a U.S. official told Reuters, following similar U.S.-brokered moves in recent weeks by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Details were still being worked out, the source said.

Haaretz Podcast: Why is Israel arming Azerbaijan against Armenia? Listen to Yossi MelmanCredit: Haaretz

Rapprochement between Israel and another Arab country would give Trump a new diplomatic achievement as he seeks re-election on November 3.

Sudan's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism dates to its toppled ruler Omar al-Bashir and makes it difficult for its transitional government to access urgently needed debt relief and foreign financing.

Many in Sudan say the designation, imposed in 1993 because the United States believed Bashir's government was supporting militant groups, is now undeserved since Bashir was removed last year and Sudan has long cooperated with the United States on counter-terrorism.

U.S.-Sudanese negotiations have focused on funds that Washington wants Khartoum to deposit in escrow for victims of al-Qaida attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, U.S. government sources said.

"GREAT news! New government of Sudan, which is making great progress, agreed to pay $335 MILLION to U.S. terror victims and families," Trump tweeted on Monday. "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!"

Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said on Monday he was looking forward to U.S. President Donald Trump officially notifying Congress to rescind Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism. In addition, a Sudanese government source told Reuters that Sudan was ready to pay compensation for U.S. Embassy bombing victims.

Trump made no mention of U.S. efforts to get Sudan to become the latest Arab state to forge ties with Israel.

Sudan had insisted that any announcement of Khartoum's de-listing not be explicitly linked to normalization with Israel. Differences remain between Sudanese political and military officials on how far and how fast to go in warming of relations with Israel.

One possibility, one U.S. official said earlier, would be for Washington to first announce Sudan's delisting and then leave it to Sudan and Israel to go public later with an agreement on establishing relations.

In recent months, senior Sudanese officials have relayed contradictory messages regarding the possibility of official ties with Israel - though such have existed in effect for some time now. Earlier this year, in fact, Netanyahu openly met with the chief of Sudan's Sovereignty Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, in Uganda.

Immediately after the meeting, the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement: "It has been agreed to start a cooperation that will lead to normalizing the ties between the countries."

Netanyahu's bureau also stated that "Prime Minister Netanyahu believes that Sudan is moving in a positive direction, and the prime minister has expressed his outlook to the American secretary of state. The head of Sudan's Sovereignty Council is interested in helping his country go through a process of modernization by taking it out of isolation and placing it on the map."

It has also been reported that Mossad chief Yossi Cohen met with Sundanese leaders ahead of a possible normalization of ties.

In return for establishing official ties, Sudan expects to be removed from the list of state sponsors of terror, which carries sanctions. Sudanese leaders have expressed hope such a move could happen soon, and have even explicitly said that is what drives the thawing relations with Israel.

Ousted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in a court in Khartoum, Sudan, September 2020.Credit: Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah / Reuters

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