'Everything has changed' since 1967's 'three no’s' summit

Sudan’s leader: We weren’t blackmailed; we’re the biggest winners of Israel deal

Khartoum would have had to wait a year to be delisted by as state sponsor of terrorism, says Gen. Burhan; backs Palestinian state, but says it’s not only Sudan’s responsibility

Sudanese Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan speaks during a military-backed rally in Omdurman district, west of Khartoum, Sudan, June 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, file)
Sudanese Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan speaks during a military-backed rally in Omdurman district, west of Khartoum, Sudan, June 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, file)

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) — Sudan’s leader said Monday that the decision to normalize ties with Israel was an incentive for US President Donald Trump’s administration to end Sudan’s international pariah status.

Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the ruling sovereign council, told state television that without the normalization with the Jewish state now, Sudan would have had to wait until deep into next year to be removed from the US’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Trump’s administration has tied the de-listing of Sudan to a deal to normalize ties with the Jewish state. The African country is the third Arab state — after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain — to move to normalize relations with Israel in recent months. The administration was eager to achieve diplomatic victories in the run-up to the US presidential election November 3.

“If the candidate [Trump] wanted some gains, we also wanted some gains… We would have waited for August or September,” he said. “We are more winners than any other party.”

Trump announced Friday that Sudan would start to normalize ties with Israel after pledging that the African country would be removed from the terror list after it agreed to put $335 million in an escrow account to be used to compensate American victims of terror attacks. The attacks include the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania by the al-Qaeda network while its leader, Osama bin Laden, was living in Sudan. In exchange, Trump notified Congress on Friday of his intent to remove Sudan from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism.

President Donald Trump speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the phone about a Sudan-Israel peace agreement, in the Oval Office on October 23, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump announced that Sudan and Israel are making peace. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP)

Burhan said both deals will open the door for Sudan to be integrated into the world financial and political system. “It was necessary for us to bring Sudan back into the global system,” he said.

“We were not blackmailed over normalization,” Burhan said in the TV interview. Rather, “reconciliation” was “in the interest of Sudan.”

“We are isolated and have suffered from sanctions,” he said.

“The removal of our name from the list… will allow us to return to the international community. We will benefit economically and get technology,” he said.

In addition, the diplomatic breakthrough would “release aid” to implement the inter-Sudanese peace agreement signed on October 3, he added, referring to a separate landmark deal that brought in several Sudanese rebel factions from the cold.

Sudan wants 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 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.

Some factions within the political alliance supporting the transitional government have voiced their opposition to normalization with Israel, including Sudan’s former Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi, who heads the country’s largest political party.

Burhan, however, said he consulted with al-Mahdi and other political leaders who did not voice objections to an agreement with Israel, “as long as it will be brought to the legislative branch,” which has yet to be formed.

Burhan said he is confident the normalization deal will be ratified by the interim parliament, challenging political parties that object to campaign in the next elections to cut ties with the US and Israel.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stands with Sudanese Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of the ruling sovereign council, in Khartoum, Sudan, August 25, 2020. (Sudanese Cabinet via AP)

He also said that Sudan, a Muslim-majority African country, still supports the Palestinian people in their call for an independent state on territory captured by Israel in 1967.

“We all want a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders… but we do not want to make Sudan bear full responsibility for it,” the general said.

The Sudanese leader urged Israel to carry out its part in the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which offers Israel normal ties with Arab states in return for Palestinian statehood.

Khartoum hosted the historic Arab League summit after the 1967 Mideast War. The conference approved a resolution that became known as the “three no’s” — no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel and no negotiations.

Burhan said that “everything has changed” since the “three no’s” conference and several deals were cut with Israel, including the Palestinians. He was referring to Egypt, Jordan, UAE, and Bahrain, which had normalized ties with the Jewish state.

AFP contributed to this report.

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