CAIRO (AP) — President Donald Trump on Monday said Sudan will be removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, a move that would open the door for the African country to get the international loans and aid that are essential for reviving its battered economy and rescue the country’s transition to democracy.
The decision was contingent on Sudan following through on its agreement to pay $335 million to U.S. terror victims and families.
The announcement came after Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin was in Bahrain to cement the Gulf state’s recognition of Israel. It came as the Trump administration pursues further Arab recognition of Israel. Delisting Sudan from the state sponsors blacklist is a key incentive for the Sudanese government to normalize relations with Israel.
Trump tweeted: “GREAT news! New government of Sudan, which is making great progress, agreed to pay $335 MILLION to U.S. 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!”
Sudan’s transitional government is expected to take steps towards establishing diplomatic ties with Israel, lending Trump another diplomatic victory ahead of next month’s U.S. presidential election. U.S. officials have linked the delisting to normalization with Israel, causing divisions within Sudan’s joint military-civilian government.
But removal from the list is also contingent on Sudan paying compensation for victims of the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, attacks conducted by Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network while bin Laden was living in Sudan.
Sudan is on a fragile path to democracy after a popular uprising last year led the military to overthrow autocratic leader Omar al-Bashir in April 2019. A military-civilian government now rules the country, with elections possible in late 2022.
Top Sudanese military leaders have become increasingly vocal in their support for normalization with Israel as part of a quick deal with Washington ahead of the U.S. election.
The top civilian official in the coalition, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, has repeatedly urged the U.S. administration not to link Sudan’s removal from the list to normalization with Israel.
Hamdok argued that the transitional government does not have the mandate to decide on foreign policy issues of this magnitude.
The designation of Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism dates back to the 1990s, when Sudan briefly hosted Osama bin Laden and other wanted militants. Sudan was also believed to have served as a pipeline for Iran to supply weapons to Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.
The transitional authorities are desperate to have sanctions lifted that are linked to its listing by the U.S. as a terror sponsor. That would be a key step toward ending its isolation and rebuilding its battered economy, which has plunged in recent months, threatening to destabilize the political transition to democracy.
Sudanese officials have been negotiating the terms of removing the country from the list for more than a year but the U.S. effort to repair relations with Sudan dates to the end of President Barack Obama’s administration, which initiated the process in January 2017.
Sudan’s transitional government has already agreed with the U.S. State Department, in theory, to a compensation deal for victims of the 1998 bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which were orchestrated by bin Laden’s al-Qaida network while he was living in Sudan.