Sudan moves to normalise relations with Israel under US pressure, says report

Chairman of Sudan’s Transitional Sovereign Council General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (L) speaks with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok during a reception ceremony in the capital Khartoum on 8 October (AFP)

Sudan’s ruling council has reportedly decided to move ahead with normalising diplomatic relations with Israel following a 24-hour deadline imposed by the United States government, Israeli channel i24News reported on Thursday. On Wednesday, the US allegedly gave Sudan a deadline to decide whether to establish diplomatic ties with Israel, in exchange for removing the country’s name from Washington’s state sponsors of terrorism list.

No official Sudanese statement has yet been issued corroborating the i24News report.

Sudan was put on the US list in the early 1990s, when now-ousted President Omar al-Bashir hosted al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. The country continues to suffer under heavy economic sanctions. Israel signed diplomatic agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain last month, under the sponsorship of US President Donald Trump – breaking longstanding consensus among Arab states that normalisation with Israel be contingent on a resolution to the Israeli occupation and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

Both Israeli and US government figures have repeatedly hinted since August that other Arab countries would follow in the two Gulf states’ footsteps. Although a number of countries are known to have had unofficial relations with Israel for years, they have yet to follow suit and formalise ties. While some governments have touted the economic and diplomatic benefits of such a move, several polls have shown that a majority of citizens in the region remain opposed to normalisation with Israel.

On Thursday, Abu al-Qasim Bortom, a former Sudanese MP, told Times of Israel that he was planning a “civilian delegation” to Israel “to break the psychological barrier” between Israelis and Sudanese.

“This delegation is not about politics, or about business. It is about encouraging our government to accelerate normalisation with Israel. We want to help our government take more serious steps towards normalisation,” Bortom said.

A source in Sudan told Middle East Eye that Bortom was part of the “Spare Parties”, a group of small political parties formed under Bashir’s rule to gain power in parliament and to pursue their interests. Since Bashir was ousted in April 2019, many of the “Spare Parties” MPs and politicians have attempted to figure out the new rules of the political arena and where the power is shifting.

In February, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in secret with Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the chairman of Sudan’s ruling Sovereignty Council, in Uganda, and the two leaders agreed to start the process of normalising ties.

In August, the United Arab Emirates arranged an unannounced meeting between the vice president of the Sovereignty Council, Commander of the Rapid Support Forces Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (known as Hemeti) and the head of the Israeli Mossad, Yossi Cohen, to discuss prospects for normalisation with Israel. Shortly before he was removed from power, Bashir said he was advised to normalise ties with Israel, a request he rejected.

Israel and Sudan have never enjoyed official bilateral relations, although Israel does enjoy close relations with South Sudan, which split from Sudan in 2011.

Source: Middle East Eye