US Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo is in a race against time to resolve his country's dispute with Sudan ahead of the presidential election in the United States.
And as so often when it comes to diplomacy lately, Israel is not far behind the ulterior motives of Donald Trump's administration.
“The United States has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to finally provide compensation to the victims of the 1998 Al Qaeda terrorist attacks on the United States embassies in Kenya and Tanzania,” wrote Mike Pompeo in a letter to senators that AFP is aware of.
“We also have a single, narrow window to support the civilian-led transitional government in Sudan, which has finally got rid of the Islamist dictatorship,” he added.
At the heart of this issue, the inclusion of Sudan in the American blacklist of states supporting terrorism.
This sanction, synonymous with hindering investment for the North-East African country, dates back to 1993. The crisis worsened with the attacks of 1998, which killed more than two hundred people.
The Sudan of Omar al-Bashir, guilty of having hosted al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden for several years, had then become an outcast for the Americans.
In recent years, however, Washington has changed its tone when the former Sudanese autocrat began to cooperate in the fight against terrorism and played the game of peace with South Sudan.
Former Democratic President Barack Obama and his Republican successor Donald Trump have reconnected with Khartoum, and even before the fall of Omar al-Bashir, the United States had engaged in a dialogue to remove Sudan from its blacklist.
The revolution that swept through the former Sudanese regime in the spring of 2019 only accelerated the movement, and Mike Pompeo did not spare his support for transitional Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok.
But the negotiations stumbled over the thorny legal dossier of compensation for the families of the victims of the 1998 attacks.
The secretary of state now thinks a solution is in sight, and has made it “one of his top priorities,” a spokeswoman for US diplomacy told AFP.
His “plan” provides for the payment by Khartoum, into a blocked account, of funds which will only be paid under conditions to the United States to compensate the plaintiffs. US media cited the overall amount of $ 335 million.
Among these conditions, the withdrawal of Sudan from the anti-terrorism blacklist and the adoption of a bill proclaiming “legal peace” with Khartoum to avoid the risk of new prosecutions.
In his letter, Mike Pompeo pressured the US Congress to vote for this provision.
“This law must come into force in mid-October at the latest in order to guarantee the payment of compensation to victims as soon as Sudan is removed from the list of states supporting terrorism,” he explained.
Which, in plain language, means the Trump administration is ready to lift the iconic sanction ahead of the November 3 presidential election.
A few senators from all sides supported Mike Pompeo's request. But within the US government, there are concerns about the resistance of influential elected Democrats.
Why such eagerness, on the part of a Secretary of State otherwise very little interested in the African continent?
It is probably that another file dear to the Trump administration is behind this one.
Mike Pompeo visited Khartoum at the end of August, during the first visit of an American secretary in 15 years, during a tour to convince Arab countries to normalize their relations with Israel.
The camp of the Republican president-candidate wants to capitalize on the historic agreements concluded under his aegis by the Hebrew state with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, a success that was lacking in its diplomatic record, which is more favorable to Israeli interests and therefore likely to galvanize its evangelical electorate.
Abdallah Hamdok had seemed to shower American hopes, saying he had “no mandate” to settle such a sensitive issue.
But according to several observers, the negotiations are continuing behind the scenes.