Israel and Sudan to normalise ties soon

Israel and Sudan have agreed to move towards forging normal relations for the first time, Israeli officials said on Monday, after the leaders of the two countries met in Uganda.

The Associated Press news agency quoted a Sudanese military official as saying the meeting was coordinated by the United Arab Emirates and also aimed at removing Sudan from the US’s list of “state sponsors of terrorism”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held talks with Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of Sudan’s sovereign council, in Entebbe.

“We agreed to begin cooperation that will lead to normalisation of relations between the two countries,” Netanyahu tweeted. “History!”

A senior Palestinian official denounced Monday’s meeting as a “stab in the back of the Palestinian people”.

This was also a “stark departure from the Arab peace initiative at a time when the administration of [US] President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu are trying to liquidate the Palestinian cause,” Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said in a statement carried by official news agency WAFA.

Normalising relations with Sudan, where Arab states gathered in 1967 to issue what became known as the “Three No’s” – no recognition of Israel, no peace with Israel and no negotiations with Israel – would allow Netanyahu to burnish his diplomatic credentials a month before the country’s March 2 election.

“Netanyahu believes that Sudan is moving in a new and positive direction,” the Israeli statement said.

Sudan’s leader, it added, “is interested in helping his country go through a modernisation process by removing it from isolation and placing it on the world map”.

In January 2016, Sudan’s former Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandoor had said normalising relations with Israel would be possible in exchange for the lifting of US sanctions on his country.

Israel previously considered Sudan a security threat, due to Iran’s suspected use of the country as a conduit for overland smuggling of munitions to the occupied Gaza Strip. In 2009, regional sources said, Israeli aircraft bombed an arms convoy in Sudan.

However, since Sudan’s longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir was removed from office last year, Khartoum has distanced itself from Iran and no longer poses such a threat, Israeli officials say.

Netanyahu arrived in Uganda on Monday, saying Israel is “returning to Africa in a big way” and urging the East African country to open an embassy in Jerusalem.

Most countries have their embassies in Tel Aviv because they view the final status of Jerusalem as something that should be negotiated between Israel and the Palestinian leadership.

Trump broke with that consensus when he recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the US embassy there in 2018. The move infuriated the Palestinians, who cut off contacts with the US.

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