December 3, 2020

Trump Announces Sudan Will Move to Normalize Relations With Israel

WASHINGTON — President Trump announced on Friday that Israel and Sudan have agreed to move toward normalizing relations, in a deal that began with opening economic and trade ties.

But it appeared to stop short of establishing full diplomatic relations, as Israel has planned with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in similar agreements that Mr. Trump helped negotiate, as he seeks to claim foreign policy achievements ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

Sudan, by far the largest of the three Arab states in recent months to begin normalizing relations with Israel, agreed to the arrangement only four days after the Trump administration said it would take Sudan off an American list of state sponsors of terrorism. That deal was sent to Congress for final approval on Friday morning.

“The state of Israel and the Republic of Sudan have agreed to make peace,” Mr. Trump said in the Oval Office, where he was holding a conference call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Sudan’s civilian and military leaders, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

The deal will allow economic and trade relations between Israel and Sudan — an impoverished East African country that only last year emerged from decades of dictatorship — focusing at first on agricultural products and financial assistance.

There was no mention in a joint statement by the three countries describing the new deal for Sudan and Israel to open embassies in each others’ capitals, and a senior American administration official confirmed that was not yet a part of the discussions.

Looking for political credit before the Nov. 3 elections, Mr. Trump has promoted his efforts to expand Arab states’ normalization with Israel as a game-changing feat of diplomacy. He did not respond when asked if the accord amounted to full diplomatic normalization between Sudan and Israel.

The agreement was expected after the United States said on Monday it would remove Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, a necessary step for the East African nation to receive international support as its new transitional government tries to emerge from decades of international isolation.

On Friday, the Trump administration notified Congress that it would take Sudan off the list, giving lawmakers until December to object before it is finalized. A U.S. official said no objections were expected, even though Congress is snarled over whether to give Sudan legal immunity for any role that American courts may find it had in the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Sudan has already agreed to pay victims of the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the 2000 attack on the destroyer Cole as part of coming off the terrorism list.

Lara Jakes reported from Washington, Declan Walsh from Nairobi and David M. Halbfinger from Jerusalem. Michael Crowley contributed reporting from Washington.