Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, chairman of the Sovereignty Council of Sudan, the country’s transitional government, defended Khartoum’s normalization agreement with Israel on the grounds that it would benefit the impoverished country economically.

“We were not subjected to blackmail,” he said on Monday in a TV interview reported by Reuters. “We lay down our interests and we found benefits, and it could be that we gain more than the other parties.”

The U.S.-brokered peace deal with Israel remains controversial in Sudan with major oppositionist factions rejecting it.

Burhan, who assumed power after the toppling of former President Omar al-Bashir last year, said the deal has not been finalized.

“I always prefer to call it reconciliation, instead of normalization,” he said. “So far, we have not concluded an agreement. We will sign with the other two parties, America and Israel, on the aspects of cooperation.”

U.S. President Donald Trump announced Sudan’s willingness to “make peace” during a three-way phone call on Oct. 23 with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.

The move followed the White House announcement that Trump informed Congress of his intent to remove Sudan from the U.S. list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, following Khartoum’s agreement to pay $335 million in compensation to victims of the Al-Qaeda attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, and on the destroyer USS Cole in 2000—attacks that American courts have ruled Sudan aided and abetted.


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