KHARTOUM, Sudan — The United States on Monday formally removed Sudan’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, 27 years after putting the country on its blacklist, the US embassy in Khartoum announced.
The move accompanies Sudan’s recent normalization of ties with Israel, which was brokered by Washington. Sudan confirmed in October that it had agreed to the deal in exchange for being removed from the US terror blacklist, acknowledging for the first time the existence of linkage between the two, which it had previously denied.
“The congressional notification period of 45 days has lapsed and the Secretary of State has signed a notification stating rescission of Sudan’s State Sponsor of Terrorism designation is effective as of today (December 14), to be published in the Federal Register,” the US embassy said on Facebook.
US President Donald Trump announced in October that he was delisting Sudan, a step desperately sought by the nation’s new civilian-backed government as the designation severely impeded foreign investment.
As part of a deal, Sudan agreed to pay $335 million to compensate survivors and victims’ families from a 2000 attack on the USS Cole off Yemen’s coast and the twin 1998 attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, carried out when dictator Omar al-Bashir was welcoming al-Qaeda and hosting its then-leader Osama bin Laden. One of the chief planners of the embassy attacks, Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, was killed in Tehran earlier this year, allegedly by Israeli agents.
Sudan’s transitional government, which took over last year following Bashir’s overthrow, also agreed to recognize Israel, a major goal for Trump, although Khartoum has sought to downplay the connection.
Trump sent his notice to Congress on October 26 and, under US law, a country exits the terror list after 45 days unless Congress objects, which it has not.
The African country became the third Muslim-majority state — after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain — to move to normalize relations with Israel since the summer. Another US-brokered normalization deal with Morocco followed last week.
Congress still has to approve a bill that would give Sudan immunity from future lawsuits in the US by victims of terrorism. The country has indicated it may pull out of the normalization deal with Israel if the bill doesn’t go through, according to a New York Times report earlier this month.
Additionally, the Trump administration reportedly offered victims of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks some $700 million to drop their claims against Sudan as part of the deal.
Lawyers for the 9/11 claimants asked for $4 billion, a price the administration and Senate Republicans rejected, according to an ABC News report on Friday citing sources familiar with the negotiations. The report said the talks were ongoing.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Foreign Relations ranking member Bob Menendez have been blocking the bill in order to protect the 9/11 claimants and maintain their rights to file lawsuits against Sudan for its assistance to bin Laden. A compromise was reported to be in the works.
According to an Axios report last week, Israel has begun lobbying senators and Congress members to approve the bill, hoping to save the overall normalization deal, part of Trump’s Abraham Accords initiative. These deals have seen the Trump administration agree to the sale of F-35 fighter jets to the UAE as part of the Emiratis’ agreement to normalize ties with Israel, and a move to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara.
Sudan’s removal from the terror list and the legislation it is hoping will pass in Congress would be a major boon for the country. Sudan has been looking to revive its battered economy and rescue its transition to democracy, following a popular uprising last year that led the military to overthrow longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir.
The transitional government has been struggling with a huge budget deficit and widespread shortages of essential goods, including fuel, bread and medicine. Annual inflation soared past 200% last month as prices of bread and other staples surged, according to official figures.
The designation of Sudan as a “state sponsor of terrorism” dates to the 1990s, when the nation briefly hosted bin Laden and other wanted terrorists. Sudan was also believed to have served as a pipeline for Iran to supply weapons to Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip.