Sudan rejects linking removal from US terrorism list with Israel ties

Democrats split over bill that would make Sudan immune from future lawsuits from terror victims after initial compensation.

Sudanese protesters shout slogans and wave flags during a rally honouring fallen protesters at the Green Square in Khartoum, Sudan July 18, 2019 (photo credit: REUTERS/ MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH)
Sudanese protesters shout slogans and wave flags during a rally honouring fallen protesters at the Green Square in Khartoum, Sudan July 18, 2019
Sudan does not want to link its removal from a US terrorism list that is hindering access to foreign funding for the country’s economy with a normalization of relations with Israel, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said on Saturday.
However, Sudan’s leaders have not ruled out establishing ties with Israel as part of a US offer of $300m. in economic aid, as well as $3 b. in debt relief and investments.
Chairman of the Sudanese Sovereignty Council Abdel Fatah al-Burhan, who is in the position during a transition period after ruler Omar al-Bashir was toppled last year, favors ties with Israel in exchange for the US aid package, and his No. 2, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, supports him as well.
Both view normalization as a step worth taking to promote Sudan’s broader interests.
Hamdok and Burhan met with UAE and US officials in Abu Dhabi this week to discuss their removal from the state sponsors of terror list and US aid, and returned to Khartoum empty-handed.
Sudan’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism dates back to 1993, under Bashir’s rule, and makes it difficult for its new transitional government to access urgently needed debt relief and foreign financing.
Hamdok said Sudan told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a visit last month it was necessary to separate the removal from the US list from the normalization of relations with Israel.
Pompeo has said the US will remove Sudan’s state sponsor of terror designation in mid-October.
“This topic [ties to Israel] needs a deep discussion of the society,” he told a conference in Khartoum to discuss economic reforms.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not plan to meet with Burhan in Uganda again, as he did in February, contrary to some reports on Friday, Sudanese sources said.
Normalization between Israel and Sudan would be deeply symbolic, as Khartoum was the site of the 1967 Arab League decision on the “three nos” – no recognition, no negotiations and no peace with Israel.
Sudan’s surging inflation and plummeting currency have been the biggest challenges to Hamdok’s transitional administration, which rules with the military since Bashir’s ouster.
Sudan was put on the US list in 1993, because Bashir’s regime provided a haven for al-Qaeda, among other terrorist groups, and Bashir later allowed the country to become a way-station for Iranian arms sent to Hamas and Hezbollah.
But many in Sudan consider this is undeserved, since Bashir was removed last year and Sudan has cooperated with the United States on counter-terrorism in recent years.
The White House and State Department have declined to comment when asked about the status of negotiations.
However, the Trump administration has been looking for another diplomatic breakthrough, after Israel’s peace treaties with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, and has been pushing Congress to pass legislation for Sudan to compensate victims of terror so it can get immunity from further claims, The Hill reported.
Pompeo sent Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a letter last week to push the bill through as soon as possible, Foreign Policy reported.
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.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Bob Menendez oppose immunity, known as “legal peace,” with the latter calling it a “slap in the face to the... 9/11 victims and family members.”