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White House: Sudan and Israel to normalize relations

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Israel and Sudan are on course toward normalizing relations as part of a U.S.-brokered deal, the White House announced on Friday.

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1319683876046934016

“President @realDonaldTrump has announced that Sudan and Israel have agreed to the normalization of relations,” tweeted Deputy Assistant to the president, Judd Deere, adding that this move is “another major step toward building peace in the Middle East with another nation joining the Abraham Accords”.

This move comes after the president removed Sudan from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism this week, and after the Arab nations of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates formally normalized their ties with the State of Israel last month in a U.S.-brokered deal.

Sudan and other predominantly Muslim countries have treated Israel hostilely for decades because of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This recent diplomatic shift in the Arab world toward reconciliation with Israel symbolizes a changing political dynamic in the Middle East, especially as many Arab nations grow increasingly antagonistic toward Iran.

The first Arab countries to recognize Israel were Egypt in 1979 and the U.S.-aligned Kingdom of Jordan in 1994, each under different circumstances.

Also historically significant is that the removal of Sudan from the state-sponsored terror blacklist marks the end of the authoritarian country’s international isolation. In 1993, the United States imposed sanctions on the landlocked North African nation for aiding terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad as well as for sheltering Osama bin Laden, who led al-Qaeda at the time. Additionally, al-Qaeda and the group Egypt Islamic Jihad in 1998 bombed the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, taking over 200 lives.

Countries placed on this State Department list are prohibited from receiving financial aid from international entities such as the International Monetary Fund, something which the economically impoverished country needs desperately.

Also related to this deal is that Sudan has to compensate American victims of terror attacks that it was involved in and their families in the amount of $355 million. President Trump said on Monday that he would remove Sudan from the terror list if it followed through on this, which it did on Tuesday. Trump then signed an executive order to take it off the list.

Congress has 45 days to rubber-stamp this action, however.

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1318251010595303424

Sudan’s Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok, thanked the U.S. president in a tweet for removing Sudan from the state sponsors of terrorism blacklist.

“Thanks to President @realdonaldtrump for signing today the executive order to remove Sudan from #SSTL,” he wrote. “We’re working closely with the US Administration & Congress to conclude the SSTL removal process in a timely manner. We work towards int’l relations that best serve our people.”

There are reports, according to The Times of Israel and Reuters, that a deal may be announced late on Friday.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Cuomo says he’ll ‘fully cooperate’ with NY AG’s review of sexual harassment claims

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Wednesday that he will “fully cooperate” with the state attorney general’s independent review into sexual harassment allegations made against the currently scandal-ridden governor, saying, “I fully support a woman’s right to come forward.”

Last Wednesday, Lindsey Boylan, who served in his administration for over three years, accused Cuomo of suggesting to her on a 2017 flight that they play strip poker, inappropriate touching, and kissing her on the lips without her consent.

RELATED: ‘Let’s play strip poker’: Fmr. Cuomo aide accuses NY governor of sexual harassment

Following Boylan’s accusations, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett alleged the governor indicated interest in having an affair with her while she was serving in his administration as a health policy adviser. In a Saturday New York Times report, Bennett told the newspaper that Cuomo asked her if she had “ever been with an older man,” adding that “age doesn’t matter” in relationships.

At Wednesday’s press briefing, the Empire State governor addressed the accusations leveled against him over the past seven days by three women and New York Attorney General Letitia James’ (D) independent review into those claims, which she announced on Monday was formally proceeding.

RELATED: De Blasio ‘sickened’ by Cuomo sexual harassment claims

“As you probably know, the attorney general is doing an independent review, and I will fully cooperate with that review,” Cuomo said at the beginning of his statement. “Now, the lawyers say I shouldn’t say anything when you have a pending review until that review is over. I understand that, I’m a lawyer, too. But, I want New Yorkers to hear from me directly on this.”

“First, I fully support a woman’s right to come forward,” the governor began. “And I think it should be encouraged in every way. I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it, and frankly I am embarrassed by it, and that’s not easy to say. But that’s the truth.”

This echoes what Cuomo said in a Sunday statement about the allegations, in which he stated he “may have been insensitive” during his tenure but charged his accusers of misinterpreting his actions, saying, “I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation… I am truly sorry about that.”

RELATED: Cuomo responds to sexual harassment claims, saying he ‘may have been insensitive’

During his Wednesday remarks, Cuomo iterated “I never touched anyone inappropriately,” repeated that sentence, then said “I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable” and repeated that one too.

“And I certainly never, ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain. That is the last thing I would ever want to do,” he continued. “I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts from the attorney general’s report before forming an opinion. Get the facts, please, before forming an opinion.”

“I also want you to know that I have learned from what has been an incredibly difficult situation for me as well as other people, and I’ve learned an important lesson,” the governor said at the end of his statement. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for whatever pain I caused anyone, I never intended it, and I will be the better for this experience.”

Amid Boylan and Bennett’s allegations, another report of Cuomo sexually harassing a woman has cropped up. On Monday, a woman named Anna Ruch accused the governor of placing his hands on her cheeks—without her consent—at a 2019 wedding reception and asking if he could kiss her. A photograph of the two together at the event has also been circulating on social media.

RELATED: ‘Eat the whole sausage: Gov. Cuomo in hot water for resurfaced video

Asked at Wednesday’s briefing about the pictures that have resurfaced of him being touchy with people, particularly that of him and Ruch, the governor claimed that it is his way of greeting people.

“I understand the opinion of—and feelings of—Ms. Ruch,” Cuomo said. “You can find hundreds of pictures of me making the same gesture with hundreds of people—women, children, men, etc. You can go find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people. […] It is my usual and customary way of greeting.”

Moreover, the governor said that his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, would do the same thing.

“By the way, it was my father’s way of greeting people,” Cuomo said, explaining, “You’re the governor of the state, you want people to feel comfortable, you want to reach out to them.”

He also mentioned that he kisses and hugs legislators and noted that at an event in Queens the other day he hugged pastors and state assembly members.

Furthermore, the governor said that his intent “doesn’t matter,” saying, “What it matters is if anybody was offended by it.”

“But if they were offended by it, then it was wrong,” he added, going on to say that if they were offended or hurt by it, he apologizes.

MORE ON CUOMO: NY dem says state legislature is ‘inching toward’ Cuomo impeachment probe

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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