(CN) — The White House quoted the president on Friday as having told Congress he will formally remove Sudan from the list of U.S. state sponsors of terrorism in exchange for the country paying up $335 million to victims.
President Donald Trump said that Sudan transferred the money into an escrow account on Thursday, in anticipation of the agreement.
“Today represents a momentous step forward in the United States-Sudan bilateral relationship and marks a pivotal turning point for Sudan, allowing for a new future of collaboration and support for its ongoing and historic democratic transition,” the White House said in a statement.
The United States has deemed Sudan a state sponsor of terrorism since 1993, a designation that the African nation held well before its role in the U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, and the murder of USAID employee John Granville.
Some 27 years later, the breakthrough on that front follows the 2019 uprising of Sudanese civilians that triggered a coup and power-sharing between the military and the people.
Michelle Glavin, a senior fellow of Africa studies for the Council on Foreign Relations, called the Trump administration’s deal a “bitter pill” for the Sudanese economy in shambles.
“First, Sudan’s economy is on the ropes, and leaders trying to guide the country through a fragile transition are coping with soaring inflation and massive debt,” Gavin wrote in a blog post. “Delisting is positive economic news in that it removes significant barriers to critical banking relationships, eases investors’ concerns about reputational risk, and allows the United States to support debt relief for Sudan at the international financial institutions.”
Making the announcement in the final stretch of the U.S. presidential election, Trump hopes to capitalize on the hand he played in getting the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to recognize Israel.
Sudan is expected to become the third Arab state to normalize relations with the Jewish state during Trump’s tenure.
Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump celebrated the agreement under the White House’s banner.
“After decades of living under a brutal dictatorship, the people of Sudan are finally taking charge,” their joint statement proclaims. “The Sudanese transitional government has demonstrated its courage and commitment to combating terrorism, building its democratic institutions, and improving its relations with its neighbors.”
Glavin, the Africa studies specialist, noted that the economic and political concessions have been difficult for Sudanese people adapting to a precarious equilibrium following decades of authoritarian rule.
She urged the Trump administration not to lose sight of Sudan’s domestic popular sentiment as it pursues its political and regional goals.
“Today, the United States should want popular sentiment to matter to Sudan’s leaders, and it should be heartened by the fact that they have to balance popular opinion with foreign policy imperatives,” Glavin wrote. “As civilians try to wrest control of Sudan’s future away from securocrats, opening up the possibility of a democratic Sudan that can play an important bridging role in the broader Red Sea area, U.S. policymakers should keep their eye on the ball and proceed with sensitivity and meaningful support.”