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1998 Victims of US Embassy bombings guaranteed equal compensation in agreement with Sudan

WASHINGTON – Victims of the 1998 bombings against two United States embassies in East Africa will soon receive up to $ 485 million in compensation as part of a sweeping settlement to remove Sudan from the list of states that support terrorism and, in turn, promote peace with Israel.

But the deal, which is part of the $ 2.3 trillion spending program that Congress is set to approve on Monday, leaves Sudan responsible for potentially billions of dollars in additional payments to the families of those who have. were killed in the attacks of September 11, 2001..

The deal largely puts months of fierce negotiations between the Trump administration and Congress to rest on how to help Sudan’s fragile transitional government and the debt-riddled economy by settling numerous lawsuits that blamed the country of harboring al-Qaeda, mainly in the 1990s.

It also ensures that the American victims of the bombings of the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania – whether they are United States citizens at the time of the attacks or naturalized later – will receive fair compensation by adding up to 150 million. of payments in addition to the 335 million dollars which Sudan has pledged.

The money should be returned to the victims of the attacks in the days and weeks to come, according to a person familiar with the negotiations, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the current legislation.

“Finally, I can turn the page and carry on the rest of my life,” said Ellen Bomer, a former Commerce Department employee who was blinded and suffering from post-traumatic stress after the explosion at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. August 7, 1998.

“I believe that justice prevails,” she added.

Relatives of 9/11 victims also hailed the deal that allowed their own lawsuits against Sudan – filed in Manhattan federal court from 2002-2004 – to continue despite strong opposition from the Trump administration and the government. from Khartoum.

“The White House has worked all year to give up our rights, in an apparent effort to secure an independent diplomatic victory,” said Terry Strada, whose husband, Tom Strada, was killed in the attack on World Trade Center in New York. . “We can now return to our quest for justice and accountability against those who allowed the murders of our loved ones.”

Sudanese leaders had requested immunity from all terrorism-related lawsuits filed after 1993 – including by families of 9/11 – as part of a broader deal that also tied its removal from the US terrorism list to the acceptance to normalize relations with Israel. President Trump announced in October that Sudan was the third Arab state to sign the Abraham’s Accords, his signing diplomatic campaign to ease tensions for Israel in the Middle East and North Africa.

People close to the diplomatic talks, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the delicate diplomacy, said this month that Sudan had threatened to pull out of the agreements if it did not enjoy full government immunity. Congress, fearing that the lawsuits might scare off foreign investors, leaving little hope of alleviating widespread poverty and instability.

This sticking point has been hotly debated in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, over the past week, according to people familiar with the negotiations. While disappointed that their country did not receive the so-called legal peace it demanded, officials said Sudanese leaders ultimately decided to stay in peace deals with Israel in exchange for $ 931 million. US aid, loans and debt relief included in the spending bill – and take on 9/11 families in court.

“Sudan is convinced that it will go against these claims,” ​​said Christopher M. Curran, a Washington-based lawyer who was among Sudan’s representatives in the negotiations.

He said Sudan maintained that it did not support Al Qaeda in the September 11 attacks and was only held responsible for the bombings against the embassy in East Africa. after the government of its former president and dictator, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, failed to defend itself in US courts.

Officials on all sides of the debate hope the new aid will help stabilize Sudan and potentially prevent it from being a breeding ground for extremism.

The United States “has critical strategic and national security interests to support Sudan’s fragile transition to democracy,” said Senators Chuck Schumer of New York and Bob Menendez of New Jersey, both Democrats. “However, this support must not and will not come at the expense of protecting the rights of victims of terrorism.”

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Israel sees warming ties with Sudan as symbolic progress in hostile region

JERUSALEM – For Israel, the movement towards normalization of relations with Sudan does not represent the same kind of historic strategic achievement as the peace treaties of decades ago with Egypt and Jordan, once bitter Arab enemies at its borders.

Nor does the move open up major new economic opportunities, as Israel’s two new pacts with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, negotiated by the Trump administration in August, did.

All Israelis could truly savor during President Trump’s announcement Friday that he had fostered another diplomatic breakthrough was its symbolic value: Sudan was the scene of the Arab League’s 1967 Khartoum resolution. Shortly after Israel’s victory in the Six Day War, League members all swore in the resolution “No to peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel.”

Suddenly Sudan, among all Arab countries, has said yes to all of the above.

In this sense, even the limited economic and trade relations that President Trump controversial Friday as a victory “for world peace” would drive another nail into the coffin of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s old strategy of maintaining Arab solidarity behind the rejection of Israel until the Palestinians establish a state.

The step towards normalizing relations with Israel would also cement a Sudanese strategic realignment that began in 2015, when after decades as an ally of Iran, the African nation abruptly sided with Saudi Arabia in the civil war in Yemen and severed relations with Tehran the following year.

“It was the big turnover, or the tipping point,” Brig said. General Assaf Orion, veteran Israeli military strategist at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. “When they’ve gone from being a hub of Iranian arms proliferation in Gaza to at least going on the right side of the Gulf, that’s a substantial thing,” he added.

“When it becomes a diplomatic achievement for Israel,” he said, “that’s also good”.

Dore Gold, former director general of Israel’s foreign ministry with extensive experience in Africa, said Israel and Sudan now share the same view of wanting to deny Iran, which he said once had effective control from Port Sudan, a strategic presence in the Red Sea.

Beyond that, he said: “I think there is a cumulative impact every time you get to another country, especially one of the biggest in Africa, both in terms of population and geographic extent. “

In practice, detente with Sudan could open up a new, albeit small, market for Israel’s agricultural, military and medical industries, experts said. Overflight rights for Israel could also shorten some flights from Tel Aviv to southern Africa or Latin America.

Some analysts also said that with its expertise in desalination and irrigation in a desert climate, Israel could play a role in helping Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia resolve their long-standing disputes on the Nile. blue. Ethiopia is building a massive $ 4.6 billion dam on the river, a dam Trump suggested on Friday that Egypt “eventually blow up” – a comment that angered Ethiopian leaders.

But there were few delusions in Israel about what motivated the Trump administration to rush for Friday’s announcement less than two weeks before election day. Privately, government officials have said that helping Israel could help Mr. Trump take off some Jewish voters in pivotal states like Florida and Pennsylvania.

Mr Trump used the announcement of the Sudan-Israel deal to ridicule his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, from the Oval Office on Friday.

“Do you think Sleepy Joe could have made this deal, Bibi?” Sleepy Joe? Mr Trump asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a TV call on cable news.

Perhaps aware of polls showing the Democratic challenger in the lead, Mr. Netanyahu, who is facing his own political crisis, has refused to attack Mr. Biden.

“We appreciate the help for the peace of anybody in America, ”he replied. “And we really appreciate what you’ve done.”

Irit Bak, an expert from Sudan who heads the African studies department at Tel Aviv University, said she was disgusted by the two besieged leaders’ use of “the situation in Sudan, which is so desperate” , to help themselves politically.

Ms. Bak warned that normalizing relations with Israel posed great peril for the leaders of Sudan, a country with a long history of Islamism. Any flashback could be dangerous for the fragile transitional government, which came to power after the ouster last year of longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir.

Relations between Israel and Sudan have long been a roller coaster ride, often colorful, generally secretive and often confrontational.

In 1948, a small detachment of troops from Sudan, then under Anglo-Egyptian rule, was part of the Arab armies against which Israel fought in its war of independence.

After Sudanese independence in 1956, Israel secretly aided the separatist rebels of Anyanya in southern Sudan, in part to identify as many Egyptian forces as possible, which were aiding the Muslim central government in Khartoum. And Sudan sent a small contingent of troops to aid Egyptian forces in the 1967 war with Israel.

In the 1970s, Israeli pilots operating from Uganda and Kenya dispatched weapons to Anyanya forces, and Israeli agents on the ground helped them ambush government soldiers and bomb bridges across the river. Nile.

In the late 1970s and 1980s, tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews emigrated to Sudan in the hope of making their way to Israel, and Israeli spies mounted a series of daring operations to hunt them down under the authorities’ noses. Sudanese. The operation was run from a hotel on the Sudanese coast, used as a cover for Mossad operatives, in a clandestine operation depicted in the 2019 film “The Red Sea Diving Resort”.

In the 1980s, Israeli officials briefly conspired with Sudanese ruler General Jaafar al-Nimeiry to stockpile weapons in his country for use in attempting to overthrow Ayatollah Khomeini’s regime in Iran. And in 1984, bribes to General al-Nimeiry and his security chief caused the Sudanese to turn a blind eye as Israel airlifted an additional 30,000 Ethiopian Jews from Khartoum.

Yet in 1985, according to Milton Bearden, then chief of the CIA station in Khartoum, two Mossad agents involved in the Ethiopian rescue operations were forced to take refuge in his home. They were eventually smuggled out of Sudan in cargo boxes fitted with oxygen tanks, he said in an interview.

Mr al-Bashir’s 1989 coup, however, led Sudan to take a sharp turn towards Islamism and enter into a long alliance with Iran, which used Sudan to channel weapons to Hamas. in Gaza.

From 2009, Israel carried out airstrikes in Sudan against suspected arms convoys, and in 2012 it bombed an ammunition depot in Khartoum, lighting up the night sky.

In a more recent attempt, the Mossad sent a private plane laden with medical supplies and medics to Khartoum to try to save influential diplomat Najwa Gadaheldam when she fell ill with Covid-19 in May. She did not survive.

It was Ms. Gadaheldam who helped launch the first public meeting between Mr. Netanyahu and Sudanese military leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan in Kampala, Uganda, in February.

David M. Halbfinger reported from Jerusalem and Ronen Bergman from Tel Aviv.

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Video: Trump announces Sudan and Israel will normalize relations

The State of Israel and the Republic of the Sudan have agreed to make peace. It’s – for many, many years they’ve been at odds, to put it mildly. And to normalize their relationship – this will be the third country where we do this, and we have many, many more to come. We have – they come to us hot and heavy. In the coming weeks, they will meet to negotiate cooperation agreements. You have seen this happen recently with the UAE and Bahrain; in agriculture, technology, aviation, migration and other critical areas. The Sudanese transitional government has demonstrated its commitment to fight terrorism, create a market economy and develop the democratic institution it is becoming. Today’s agreement builds on these commitments and marks a turning point in the history of Sudan. It is, I would say, one of the great days in the history of Sudan. It is an incredible deal for Israel and Sudan. Sudan has been at war with Israel for decades. They were in a state of war and boycotted Israeli products. There was no relationship at all – today’s peace agreement will strengthen Israel’s security and end Sudan’s long isolation from the world because of what was going on. It will open new opportunities for trade and commerce, education and research, as well as cooperation and friendship for the two peoples.