Home | News    Tuesday 8 December 2020

U.S., Israel racing against time to secure Sudan immunity deal


December 7, 2020 (KHARTOUM) - The U.S. administration along with Israel are pushing congress to pass a bill granting Sudan sovereign immunity from terrorism-related claims to salvage a normalization deal sealed last October.

The New York Times had reported last week that the chairman of the Sudan Sovereignty Council Abdel-Fatah al-Burhan warned Washington that the agreement to establish ties with the Jewish state could unravel if the US congress doesn’t pass the bill.

The report said that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo promised Burhan that the bill will make it through congress.

Trump’s administration pressured Sudan to agree to normalization with Israel in return for removal from the list of states that sponsor terrorism along with economic aid.

Both US & Sudan signed a bilateral claims agreement that outlines the terms of the $335 million settlement deal between Khartoum and terror victims primarily the 1998 twin embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

In return, the U.S. would remove Sudan from the terror blacklist and pass a legal peace bill that would restore the country’s sovereign immunity from individual lawsuits related to terror attacks.

But the Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer and ranking Democrat on the Senate foreign relations committee Robert Menendez have stalled the bill over the claims of 9/11 victims who do not have a judgment against Sudan but want to sue the latter under the state sponsor of terrorism provision.

Menendez also wants Sudan to pay more money to other victims in excess of the $335 million.

It is understood that the U.S. administration wants to include the sovereign immunity bill in the Continuing Resolution legislation that funds the federal government to avoid a shutdown.

It is not clear however that the bill can pass over the objections of the two key democratic senators.

The Republican-leaning Wall Street Journal (WSJ) editorial board slammed Schumer and Menendez for blocking the bill saying it will derail Sudan’s democratic transition and will ruin the Arab Israeli peace prospects.

"The 2 Democrats are prepared to wreck U.S. pursuits to therapeutic massage their lawyer donors," WSJ said.

"The Sudanese folks need to transfer on from the Bashir period, they usually deserve to assist in making a clear break. A failure to get the deal executed can be a tragedy for them—and for U.S. pursuits in an already robust neighbourhood".

Observers say that if the resolution does not pass before year-end then it may become even more difficult with a new incoming administration of Joe Biden.

The U.S.-based Axios news website reported that Israel is using its clout to press Congress to approve the legislation.

"Israeli diplomats in Washington have started stressing to senators and members of Congress in recent days that if the immunity bill doesn’t pass, it could have negative implications not only for the normalization process with Sudan but also for future normalization deals with other Arab countries," the report says.

“Since Sudan decided to normalize relations with Israel, Israel obviously has an interest to help resolve Sudan’s problems in Washington. This can encourage other countries to normalize relations with Israel too," a senior Israeli official told Axios.


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