Trump: Sudan, Israel to normalize relations

Washington, Oct 23 (efe-epa).- US President Donald Trump announced Friday an agreement between Sudan and Israel to normalize relations and informed Congress that he plans to remove the African nation from Washington’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.

“This is one of the great days in the history of Sudan,” Trump said after inviting reporters into the Oval Office during his conference call with Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu and Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.

“It is a new world,” Netanyahu said. “We are cooperating with everyone. Building a better future for all of us.”

Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the chair of the Sovereignty Council that has governed Sudan since strongman Omar al-Bashir was ousted in April 2019 after three decades in power, also took part in the call.

“The leaders agreed to the normalization of relations between Sudan and Israel and to end the state of belligerence between their nations,” according to a joint statement released by the White House.

The announcement came hours after Trump signed a letter notifying Congress that he plans to rescind Sudan’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, as he signaled earlier this week in a tweet.

Dropping Khartoum from the list “follows on Sudan’s recent agreement to resolve certain claims of United States victims of terror and their families,” the White House said.

“Yesterday, the transitional government of Sudan transferred $335 million into an escrow account for these victims and their families,” the statement said.

Yet that money, which Khartoum borrowed from the African Export-Import Bank, will not become available to the victims until Congress passes legislation re-establishing Sudan’s sovereign immunity from lawsuits in US courts.

Sudan was placed on the US terrorism blacklist in 1993 for harboring al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and US courts have deemed Khartoum an accomplice in the group’s 1998 attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the assault in 2000 on the destroyer USS Cole in Yemeni waters.

At the end of last year, the US agreed to remove Sudan from the list if Khartoum met two conditions: cooperate in the fight against terrorism and compensate the terror victims.

The caretaker government denied reports that linked Trump’s tweet on Monday with Sudan’s agreeing to follow in the footsteps of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain by establishing diplomatic ties with Israel.

“We say loud and clear that the removal of Sudan from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism is not related to any other issue,” Foreign Minister Omar Qamaraldin said Tuesday.

Apparently, Trump’s willingness to sign the letter to Congress ahead of the conference call was enough to satisfy the Sudanese demand that the issues of the terror list and normalization with Israel not be linked.

“Thanks to President @realdonaldtrump for signing today the executive order to remove Sudan from #SSTL,” Hamdok tweeted Friday, referring to the State Sponsors of Terrorism List.

“We’re working closely with the US Administration & Congress to conclude the SSTL removal process in a timely manner. We work towards int’l relations that best serve our people,” the Sudanese prime minister wrote.

Hamdok told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Aug. 25 that the transitional government did not have the power to make a decision about relations with Israel.

The removal from the terrorism list will allow Sudanese institutions to maintain “banking relations with Western banks, and especially the US and European banks,” Finance Minister Heba Mohamed Ali said earlier this week.

More importantly, she said, Sudan will be able to benefit from World Bank programs for the poor countries, “which could help the country with $1.7 billion annually.”

Ali said Khartoum will also gain access to an IMF mechanism that can make it easier to manage Sudan’s $60 billion in sovereign debt.

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