The Trump administration reportedly offered victims of the 9/11 terror attacks some $700 million to drop their claims against Sudan as part of an effort to save an agreement that would see the African country normalize ties with Israel in exchange for a removal of Sudan from the US’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.
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 talks are ongoing, ABC News said.
The Sudan agreement was announced in October after the Trump administration said Khartoum would put $335 million in an escrow account to be used to compensate American victims of terror attacks, including 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.
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. A new US-brokered normalization deal with Morocco was announced on Thursday, making the North African country the fourth state to implement official ties with Israel.
Sudan has been pushing for the delisting from the terror list to take place by the end of the year. In addition, 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.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Foreign Relations ranking member Bob Menendez (D-NJ) have been blocking the bill to protect the 9/11 claimants and maintain their rights to file lawsuits against Sudan for its assistance to bin Laden. A compromise is said to be in the works, according to the Times.
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 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.