Sudan Wants U.S. Investment After Trump Deal to Get Off State Terrorism List: Ambassador

Sudan is set to be removed from the U.S.'s list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, having reached a deal with President Donald Trump to pay some $335 million in compensation to victims of attacks linked to the country.

The east African country has been on the SST list since 1993, but will now look to the international community for investment and closer ties, Sudanese Ambassador to the U.S. Nureldin Satti told Newsweek Wednesday. Satti is the first Sudanese ambassador to the U.S. appointed in two decades.

Sudan is currently led by a transitional government after hardliner Omar al-Bashir was deposed last year. The new government led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has shown a willingness to engage with Washington, D.C., and in return may soon find its way off the SST list and out from under a range of American diplomatic and financial sanctions.

"GREAT news!," Trump wrote on Twitter, announcing the deal this weekend. "New government of Sudan, which is making great progress, agreed to pay $335 MILLION to U.S. terror victims and families. Once deposited, I will lift Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. At long last, JUSTICE for the American people and BIG step for Sudan!"

In response, Hamdok wrote: "Thank you so much, President Trump! We very much look forward to your official notification to Congress rescinding the designation of Sudan as a state-sponsor of terrorism, which has cost Sudan too much."

Thank you so much, President Trump! We very much look forward to your official notification to Congress rescinding the designation of Sudan as a state-sponsor of terrorism, which has cost Sudan too much.

— Abdalla Hamdok (@SudanPMHamdok) October 19, 2020

Satti told Newsweek the government was now looking ahead. "The money has been secured and is ready to be transferred to the escrow account," the ambassador said.

Satti said the SST deal and related sanctions relief could help Sudan develop its economy. Asked about the country's net priority in ties with the U.S., Satti told Newsweek of the "possibility of considerable funds being invested in Sudan," adding: "Many private sector companies have expressed the wish to invest in Sudan."

Sudan was put on the list under President Bashir in 1993, when he was accused of supporting militant groups including Hamas and Hezbollah.

The country was later accused of providing essential support to Al-Qaeda and leader Osama bin Laden, who killed more than 224 people in the double bombing of the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998. Bin Laden was based in Sudan from 1991 to 1996.

General elections in Sudan are scheduled in 2022, and Hamdok's government recently signed a draft peace deal with the rebel Sudan Revolutionary Front, potentially ending decades of war in which hundreds of thousands of people have died.

Following the Abraham Accords between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, some observers said the U.S. might try use the SST list as an incentive for Sudan to also normalize ties with Israel.

Satti told Newsweek last month that would not be helpful, and noted that the transitional government does not have a mandate to take such a controversial step.

Speaking on Wednesday, the envoy said: "We agreed that normalization with Israel will not be a condition for the SST process and that Sudan can take decisions on that matter weighting its own national interests and priorities."

"Anyway, normalization is a big word and lacks precision," he added. "There are various levels and phases in relations between countries. Ending the state of belligerence could be one first step that can be taken with the possibility of opening a new page in the relations between our two countries."

The Israeli deals with the UAE and Bahrain brought ties that had been secret for years into public, and handed Trump a foreign policy win just in time for the election.

Middle East observers are now watching Oman, Saudi Arabia and Sudan to see who might make the leap next.

"All depends on a number of issues and parameters to be carefully examined, in light of the delicate transition underway in Sudan and the complexity of the situation in the Middle East and in Israeli-Palestinian relations," Satti said of Sudan's possible future relations with Israel.

Sudan, US, terrorism, list, sanctions, Israel, ambassador
This file photo shows a Sudanese protester waving a national flag as in the Riyadh district in the east of the capital Khartoum on June 3, 2020. ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP via Getty Images/Getty