(CNN) — President Donald Trump announced Friday that Sudan and Israel have agreed to normalize relations — a foreign policy achievement for the incumbent president less than two weeks before the US presidential election.
“President @realDonaldTrump has announced that Sudan and Israel have agreed to the normalization of relations— another major step toward building peace in the Middle East with another nation joining the Abraham Accords,” White House spokesperson Judd Deere said on Twitter.
It is unclear if the deal establishes full diplomatic relations between the two nations.
His announcement came shortly after the White House said he had informed Congress of his intent to remove Sudan from the state sponsor of terrorism list. The rescission of the 27-year old designation was widely seen as being tied to the deal with Israel, despite Khartoum’s desire to keep the issues separate.
Senior government sources in Sudan told CNN earlier this week that the state sponsor of terrorism designation change was a requirement by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, the leader of the transitional government in Sudan, before talks on normalization could proceed.
“Prime Minister Hamdok was insistent during negotiations with the US that the removal from the list not be linked to normalization as Sudan has met all the criteria for its removal. Now that the designation has been changed discussions can begin afresh on normalization. The designation change was our priority and normalization is theirs,” one source said.
The Trump campaign has touted his foreign policy achievements in the Middle East. In the past several weeks the administration has overseen normalization agreements between Israel and both the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, and has teased that additional countries could follow suit.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement that the formal notification to Congress “follows on Sudan’s recent agreement to resolve certain claims of United States victims of terror and their families.” Sudan agreed to settle with survivors and families of victims of the 1998 attacks on the US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, and the 2008 murder of USAID employee John Granville in Khartoum.
“Yesterday, in fulfillment of that agreement, the transitional government of Sudan transferred $335 million into an escrow account for these victims and their families,” she said.
“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,” she said.
Hamdok thanked Trump for the move to lift the designation.
“We’re working closely with the US Administration & Congress to conclude the (state sponsor of terrorism list) removal process in a timely manner,” he wrote on Twitter Friday. “We work towards int’l relations that best serve our people.”
The spokesman for Sudan’s sovereign council, Mohammed Al Faki told CNN: “We have been formally notified that President Trump has signed the order rescinding Sudan’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terror. The order will be enacted in 45 days.”
Congress does have the ability to overturn the President’s decision to remove the designation, but only if both the House and Senate pass veto-proof joint resolutions of disapproval within 45 days.
Sudan has been listed as a state sponsor of terrorism since 1993, and it is one of only four nations total designated as such. Iran, North Korea and Syria are also listed. As a result, Sudan faces a series of restrictions including a ban on defense exports and sales and restrictions on US foreign assistance.
Sudan’s strongman leader, Omar al-Bashir, was ousted in a military coup in April 2019 after three decades in power.
This story is breaking and will be updated.