Home | News    Tuesday 20 October 2020

Trump gives green light for removing Sudan’s terrorism designation


October 19, 2020 (KHARTOUM) – The U.S. President Donald Trump sent Sudanese cheering after announcing on Monday his intention to remove Sudan from the list of states that sponsor terrorism after being stuck in this blacklist for almost three decades.

US President Donald Trump (Kevin Lamarque | Reuters)

"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!" Trump tweeted at around 8 pm Khartoum time.

The tweet was part of a deal reached between the US and Sudan last week after the former presented a new offer to Khartoum after Prime Minister Abdulla Hamdok kept resisting previous versions that would have required him to agree to normalizing ties with Israel before getting off the terror list.

Sudan Tribune was reliably told that international actors worked behind the scenes to nudge Hamdok into accepting the last-minute agreement.

According to U.S. sources, the tweet was supposed to be published on Sunday but was delayed for timing reasons related to the presence of U.S. officials in Manama where they witnessed agreements signed between Bahrain and Israel.

The next step would be for Sudan to deposit money related to a settlement with terror victims in an escrow account after which Trump will formally notify the Congress that he has decided to delist Sudan after the east African nation satisfied the statutory requirement per U.S. law. The decision would be effective after 45 days unless Congress seeks to block it through a resolution by a veto-proof majority, a highly unlikely scenario.

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator Jim Risch called Trump’s decision a “major step to resolve important issues that stand in the way of Sudan normalizing relations with the international community. Sudan has made impressive democratic & economic reforms, & I look forward to working with @POTUS & others as Sudan moves forward”.

Following this notification, a congratulatory phone conference is scheduled to be conducted involving Trump, Chairman of Sudan Sovereignty Council Abdel-Fatah al-Burhan, Sudan Prime Minister Abdel-Fatah al-Burhan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

It is also expected that the U.S. would announce an economic aid package at some point that will include food & medicine as well as $750 million in cash from Arab Gulf states.

The U.S. will also pledge to support Sudan debt relief from bilateral & multilateral creditors, facilitate private investment by U.S. firms as well as work to get it off the travel ban list from last January which prohibited Sudanese nationals from obtaining diversity visas.

In line with the deal, Burhan and Hamdok immediately tweeted at Trump in response to his tweet.

“Thank you so much, President Trump! We very much look forward to your official notification to Congress rescinding the designation of Sudan as a state-sponsor of terrorism, which has cost Sudan too much. This Tweet and that notification are the strongest support to Sudan’s transition to democracy and to the Sudanese people. As we’re about to get rid of the heaviest legacy of Sudan’s previous, defunct regime, I should reiterate that we are peace-loving people and have never supported terrorism” Hamdok said in a series of tweets from his account.

A tweet on behalf of Burhan was published by the Transitional Sovereignty Council (TSC) account said: “I would like to express my deep appreciation and that of the Sudanese people to President Trump and to the US Administration for the constructive step taken to remove Sudan off the Terror List in recognition of the historic change that has taken place in Sudan I would like to express my deep appreciation and that of the Sudanese people to President Trump and to the US Administration for the constructive step taken to remove Sudan off the Terror List in recognition of the historic change that has taken place in Sudan”.

A contentious part of the agreement would be for the U.S. administration to push Congress to pass the “legal peace” bill to shield Sudan from future lawsuits connected to the time it was on the list of states that sponsor terrorism. The $335 million in compensation will not be released to the victims until that happens.

The ranking Democrat on the Senate foreign relations committee Robert Menendez, as well as the minority leader Chuck Schumer, oppose the bill on the grounds that it strips families of the 9/11 terror attack from the right to sue Sudan among other things.

Menendez wrote a letter to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo obtained by The Jerusalem Post on Monday in which he stated that while he is supportive of Sudan, he will not support the bill unless concerns related to 9/11 victims are addressed and also alluded to the disparities between compensation allocated to US citizens versus non-U.S. citizens in the twin embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

He said there is a need to “ensure that 9/11 claims are not terminated or otherwise disadvantaged given that those claims were not addressed in the negotiations with Sudan, and; address the inferior treatment of naturalized US citizen victims of terrorism and related issues concerning third-country nationals who were injured or killed in terrorist attacks while working for the United States government”.

“Absent an acceptable resolution, passage of the legislation will be extremely difficult and likely impossible to achieve regardless of any commitments or escrow arrangement between the [State] Department and Sudan,” Menendez warned.

His Democratic colleague on the committee Senator Chris Coons who drafted the bill and has been the lead on this issue said on Twitter that the "Trump administration and Congress must redouble efforts to pass legal peace legislation for Sudan to deliver long-awaited justice and compensation to terror victims and families”.

Stuart Newberger, an attorney at Crowell & Moring who represents U.S. victims and their families, told CNN that Congress must pass the legislation because the agreement between Washington and Khartoum "requires that Sudan be basically relieved of being sued in federal court as a sponsor of terror under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act."

"So that’s why Congress has to get involved to provide Sudan what’s called ’legal peace.’ The President can’t do that on his own; that’s something only Congress can do," he said.

Edith Bartley, a spokesperson for some the families of Americans who were killed in the embassy bombings, welcomed the announcement by Trump.

"On behalf of the families killed in the 1998 bombing of the Nairobi embassy, I wish to express our appreciation for the long hard work of the State Department, and the new civilian regime in Sudan, to secure Sudan’s payment of compensation to our diplomatic families for that act of terror," said Bartley, who herself lost her father and brother in the attack in Nairobi.

"The escrow fund established by that agreement, once it is released to the victims, will fulfil a longstanding commitment first made by President Bush, honoured by President Obama, and now affirmed by President Trump, to condition normalization on compensating survivors and the families of those who were lost to acts of terror. In so doing, we vindicate the sacrifice of our diplomats abroad," she said.

In her statement, Bartley also called for Congress "to immediately pass the legislation that is needed to implement the agreement and begin the payment process. Congress cannot let this agreement fall victim to legislative gridlock and bickering."

However one of the victims by the name of Doreen Oport, who worked at the U.S. embassy in Nairobi and was injured in the attack, said in a statement carried by CNN, "We want a resolution but cannot accept one that betrays so many US embassy victims and the most basic principles of American justice”.

In a statement to the nation, late Monday Hamdok said the delisting would allow for better management of the economy and open the door for debt relief as well as rebuilding critical sectors of the economy.


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