US negotiators are pushing Sudan to establish diplomatic relations with Israel and reach a financial settlement with victims of terror in return for its removal from a US list of states that sponsor terrorism, officials in Khartoum and Tel Aviv said.
General Abdel Fattah Burhan, the military head of Sudan’s hybrid military-civilian transitional government, flew to the United Arab Emirates with his country’s justice minister, Nasredeen Abdulbari, to “enter into direct negotiations with a team of the American administration” to remove Sudan from the US list, Sudanese state media reported.
Sudan, which overthrew the 30-year dictatorship of Omar al-Bashir last year and this month agreed to separate religion from the state — ending decades of Islamic rule — has long urged Washington to remove it from the list. Without US backing, Sudan is unable to write off $60bn in past debts or access new multilateral lending for its troubled economy.
“Removing Sudan from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism creates a good environment for investment,” Hiba Mohamed Ali, Sudan’s interim finance minister, said on Monday, according to the state media agency.
Officials in Khartoum and Tel Aviv said US negotiators had linked Sudan’s removal from the list on its recognition of Israel. “It’s being made clear to them [the Sudanese] that the road to the White House goes past ours,” said a senior Israeli official.
The “Americans are tying the [ removal of] state sponsor of terror with normalisation” with Israel, said a Sudanese official. UAE officials declined to comment.
The US has also sought to tie improved relations with Sudan to the payment of compensation to victims of alleged Sudanese-sponsored terrorism. The meeting “is all about the money and Israel but the money first and Israel second,” said a US source briefed on the talks. The US state department declined to comment.
Sudanese sources briefed on the negotiations said Gen Burhan wanted to secure billions of dollars in foreign aid from the US and the UAE over three years alongside a commitment from the US to invest in farming, mining and infrastructure in Sudan, which is struggling with devastating floods, runaway inflation, and a plummeting currency.
A rapprochement between Sudan and Israel would be the latest deal to be brokered by US president Donald Trump ahead of US elections in November. The UAE and Bahrain have established diplomatic ties with Israel in recent weeks. Others flagged as possible include Oman and Morocco.
Washington has previously told Khartoum it will not remove it from the terrorist list until Sudan pays compensation of $300m to families of victims in 1998 blasts outside US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. In April, Sudan agreed to pay victims of the families of 17 US sailors killed on the USS Cole in a 2000 attack in Aden.
Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, last month flew directly from Israel to Sudan and discussed “positive developments in the Sudan-Israel relationship” with Abdalla Hamdok, Sudan’s prime minister, according to a US state department spokesperson.
In February, Gen Burhan met Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, during a secret trip to Uganda in what was seen as a move towards normalisation of ties.
Additional reporting by Simeon Kerr in Dubai
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