US restores sovereign immunity to Sudan, authorizes funds to help pay off debt
CAIRO / WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States restored sovereign immunity to Sudan on Monday, as the United States Congress passed a law formalizing the decision, after Sudan’s designation as a sponsor of terrorism ended.
However, the legislation includes an exemption allowing the families of the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States already underway in US courts to move forward, although experts say Sudan is unlikely to lose. these cases.
The sponsoring state of terrorism designation, which had been in place for nearly three decades, had weighed on the Sudanese economy and limited its ability to receive aid. For investors, restoring sovereign immunity removes another level of financial risk.
Sudan had been in talks with the United States for months and paid a negotiated settlement of $ 335 million to victims of al-Qaeda attacks on US embassies in East Africa in 1998, which had received much higher damages by US courts.
The process of releasing the settlement money and restoring Sudan’s sovereign immunity – protection from lawsuits in US courts – had been blocked in the US Congress because it was tied to the $ 892 billion coronavirus aid program of dollars.
Late Monday, the larger package was passed in Congress after a deal was reached in a rare weekend session, and sent to President Donald Trump to sign the law.
According to the bill, Washington will authorize $ 111 million to repay part of Sudan’s bilateral debt and $ 120 to help repay its debt to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) while making available an additional $ 700 million up to ‘in September 2022 for aid to the country. .
Last week, the Sudanese Minister of Finance announced an American “bridge loan” that would allow Sudan to liquidate $ 1 billion in arrears to the World Bank.
A US source familiar with the matter said the debt aid would help kickstart Sudan’s debt relief globally, helping to make it eligible for the IMF’s Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) program.
With the reestablishment of sovereign immunity and financial aid, Khartoum will now be “on the go” to normalize relations with Israel, said a US source familiar with the matter, a decision she accepted under US pressure. .
The US-Sudanese developments “certainly” meant progress towards an agreement between Israel and Sudan, Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen told Ynet TV, adding: “We will be witnessing a signing ceremony in the weeks or months to come. come.”
In a joint statement in October, Israel and Sudan said they had agreed to normalize relations and end the state of belligerence between the two countries, but Sudanese civilian leaders said the final decision would be between the hands of a country yet to come. formed a transitional legislature.
Normalization would make Sudan one of four Arab countries with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco, in recent months, to establish relations with Israel under agreements negotiated with the help of the United States. .
The bill also allocates an additional $ 150 million towards the payment of Sudan’s settlement, in order to redistribute funds in a way the drafters deem more equitable.
The United States designated Sudan as a sponsor state for terrorism in 1993 on the grounds that the regime of former President Omar al-Bashir supported militant groups such as al-Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah.
In the 1990s, the regime became an outcast, welcoming Osama bin Laden and positioning itself as a fulcrum for Islamist movements, although experts still argue that Sudan’s responsibility for the September 11 attacks is questionable.
Reporting by Nafisa Eltahir and Humeyra Pamuk Editing by Robert Birsel, William Maclean