The Trump administration formally removed the country from a list of state sponsors of terrorism on Monday, ending nearly three decades of international isolation.
NAIROBI, Kenya — Sudan took a major step back into the international fold on Monday when the United States formally removed it from a list of state sponsors of terrorism, ending a 27-year period of isolation that turned the vast African country into a diplomatic pariah, hobbled its economy and blocked access to financial aid that its government now urgently needs.
Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, the leader of Sudan’s fragile transitional government, hailed the move as a rare moment of celebration in a country that is straining badly under a crushing economic crisis and the coronavirus pandemic.
This is the beginning of a “new era,” Mr. Hamdok said on Twitter. After three decades of isolation, he wrote, Sudan could officially rejoin the international community as “a peaceful nation supporting küresel stability.”
The move put in effect a decision announced by President Trump on Oct. 19, when he said Sudan would be removed from the terrorism list in exchange for a $335 million compensation payment to the victims of the 1998 Qaeda attacks on American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
Only three countries now remain on the American list of state sponsors of terrorism: North Korea, Iran and Syria.
In delisting Sudan, American officials are certifying they no longer believe the country is allied with militant groups like Hezbollah and Al Qaeda, as it was in 1993 when President Bill Clinton made the designation.
In reality, those ties withered many years ago, even before last year’s dramatic ouster of Sudan’s dictatorial leader of three decades, Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Talks to remove Sudan from the terrorism list formally started in 2018.
But the negotiations were grindingly slow and legally complex, and only gained urgency last summer as the Trump administration sought ways to pressure or induce Arab countries to normalize relations with Israel.
Sudan agreed to recognize Israel, with evident reluctance, on Oct. 23 — although it appeared to stop short of agreeing to full diplomatic relations — provided Mr. Trump followed through on his promise of removal from the terrorism list.
Long lines for fuel and others essential supplies, as well as soaring inflation, have placed Sudan’s government under crushing pressure.Credit…Ashraf Shazly/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
In so doing, Sudan became the third Arab country, after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, to recognize Israel this year. Last week, Morocco joined the list.
For Khartoum, the decision was driven by burning economic need. Long lines for fuel and others essential supplies, as well as soaring inflation, have put the civilian-military coalition that has replaced Mr. al-Bashir under intense pressure in recent months.
The economic crisis fueled speculation that Mr. Hamdok’s civilian-led government, which operates under a military-controlled body, could face destabilizing street protests, or worst.
On Monday, Mr. Hamdok seemed elated by a rare political victory.
“Today we return with all our history, the civilization of our people, the greatness of our country and the vigor of our revolution to the international community,” he wrote on Twitter.
That deal over Israel appeared to hang in the balance earlier this month, amid uncertainty over whether Congress would restore Sudan’s immunity from prosecution. But Monday’s delisting showed that at least one major part of the deal had gone through.
Since a congressional notification period of 45 days had lapsed, the American embassy in Sudan said on Facebook, Sudan’s removal from the terrorism list was effective immediately.
In a report on the delisting, Israel’s Army Radio noted that relations between Sudan and Israel had not yet been restored. “The normalization agreement has not yet been signed, and the negotiations are still underway,” it said.
The removal comes at a critical time for Sudan, with its economy is in tatters and the pandemic running rampant. British researchers recently estimated that 38 percent of people in Khartoum had been infected with Covid-19 but the majority of deaths had gone unreported.
The United States lifted many sanctions against Sudan in 2017 but the terrorism listing left Khartoum still shunned by international banks and cut off from international financial aid.
Sudan’s government hopes that it can now access emergency funds from the International Monetary Fund to help alleviate its crisis, which has caused public confidence in the transitional government to fall sharply, and badly strained relations between the civilian and military leaders who are supposed to steward the country toward elections scheduled for 2022.
Isabel Kershner contributed reporting from Jerusalem.
Source: The New York Times