Sudan has apparently told the US that it will not normalise relations with Israel until Washington removes the African country from the list of states which "sponsor" terrorism, the New York Times has reported. The interim government in Khartoum is said to have marked the end of this year as the deadline to be taken off the list.
Following the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, Sudan was set to be the third Arab government to normalise with Israel in recent months, encouraged by the US. Such a move, believes the Trump administration, helps to sideline Iran's growing influence in the Middle East and marginalise the Palestinian issue.
The Israel-Sudan normalisation deal, which was announced on 23 October, has yet to be formally signed and still requires parliamentary approval in Khartoum.
"The whole thing felt forced all along by an administration that wanted to use a terrorism designation as a political tool to try to get normalisation with Israel," said Ilan Goldenberg, the director of the Middle East Security programme at the Centre for a New American Security. "When you cook up these kinds of very transactional deals with unrelated items that don't make much sense, this sometimes happens."
The deal is supposed to see Sudan pay the US $335 million in compensation for the victims of the 1998 terrorist attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, in which 224 people were killed and thousands were injured. Although not directly involved, Sudan was hosting Osama Bin Laden at the time, and Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attacks.
In an interview on Saturday night with the Egyptian newspaper Al-Shorouk, the head of the Sovereignty Council of Sudan, Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, said that removing Sudan's from the terrorism list "is an obstacle that must be removed, in order to delve into cooperation prospects. We should make good use of our tools and capabilities that the US needs, and we can exploit them better."
The Sudanese official added that the US is not a charity that donates money without expecting anything in return. "We only have to market our country and its resources in a better way, while emphasising what Washington can gain, and what we can benefit."