Sudan threatens to drop Israel normalisation if US fails to grant terror immunity

Sudan threatens to drop Israel normalisation if US fails to grant terror immunity
Khartoum has warned Washington it will not go forward with the Israel normalisation accord unless the US protects it from further legal action over Al-Qaeda attacks.
3 min read
02 December, 2020
Normalisation with Israel is widely unpopular in much of the Arab world [Getty]
Sudan has warned the US it will pull out of a Washington-brokered agreement to normalise ties with Israel if Congress fails to restore its sovereign immunities by the end of the year, officials have said. 

Khartoum reluctantly agreed to become the third Arab nation this year to normalise ties with Israel, but only if it was removed from the US State Sponsors of Terrorism list.

Last month's deal is in danger if Congress fails to approve parts of the delisting by the year's end, five officials and others familiar with the talks told The New York Times.

The rapprochement deal involves restoring Sudan's sovereign immunities, a move that will block US court actions against Khartoum.

Sudan's immunities were removed in the 1990s as part of the terror designation, exposing the country to multi-million dollar lawsuits over two major Al-Qaeda attacks.

Khartoum was placed on the State Sponsors of Terror list over its hosting of Osama bin Laden and other Al-Qaeda figures between 1991 and 1996 under former dictator Omar Al-Bashir.

Hard-hit by a long-standing economic crisis, amplified by the coronavirus pandemic, Sudan has put its hopes of attracting foreign investment and aid after its de-listing on hold.

General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, the leader of the Sudanese transitional soveriegn council, issued Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with the ultimatum on Monday, the NYT reported.

Read more: How US blackmail pushed Sudan to normalise ties with Israel

Pompeo assured the Sudanese de-facto leader that the country's sovereign immunities would be restored within the next few weeks, a person familiar with the conversation said.

As such, Trump administration officials are planning a signing ceremony for the nascent Sudanese-Israeli peace accord expected to take place in late December.

However, congressional approval for the move remains uncertain.

Lawmakers are divided over the distribution of compensation the Sudanese government has agreed to pay the victims of two Al-Qaeda attacks and Khartoum being possibly shielded from future court action by the families of victims of the 9/11 attacks.

Members of Congress and Trump administration officials are currently pursuing a compromise that would greenlight Sudan's de-listing but also allow the families of 9/11 victims to pursue compensation from Khartoum in the future, officials told the NYT.

As with the 1998 US embassy attacks in Tanzania and Kenya, and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, some believe victims and their families should be able to pursue legal action against Sudan.

There are further questions over its alleged culpability in the 11 September 2001 attacks, due to Khartoum not hosting Al-Qaeda members at the time.

The State Department should not have promised Sudan it would be shielded from such legal action in the future, officials told the NYT.

Liability to future legal action is viewed as unacceptable by Sudanese negotiators, however.

It is unclear whether the dispute could be resolved by the end of the year.

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