JERUSALEM: An Israeli delegation visited Sudan on Wednesday to discuss normalising relations following the Jewish state’s US-brokered deals with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, sources reported in Khartoum and Jerusalem.
The one-day return trip heightened speculation Israel could soon strike a peace deal with the Arab-led African country, with which it is technically at war.
“A joint American-Israeli delegation visited Khartoum yesterday” and met with Sovereign Council President General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan for talks on a normalisation of ties between Sudan and Israel, a Sudanese government source said.
A chartered plane left Tel Aviv for the Sudanese capital on Wednesday, according to the specialised air traffic website Flightradar24.
US President Donald Trump pledged on Monday to soon take Sudan off the US state sponsors of “terrorism” blacklist, a legacy of the al-Bashir era.
Israel’s top-selling daily, Yediot Aharonot, reported Sudan’s post-Bashir transitional joint civilian and military government had internally agreed to normalise ties.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on the same day of Israeli visit that he hoped Sudan would “quickly” recognise Israel.
On Thursday, the US State Department said Pompeo had spoken by phone with Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok during which he “applauded … Hamdok’s efforts to improve Sudan’s relationship with Israel and expressed hope that they would continue”.
It reported that “an agreement has been reached” between Burhan and Hamdok “who had been opposed up until now to normalising relations with Israel”. The newspaper mentioned a possible announcement by Trump “in the coming days” from Washington, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Burhan to join by video conference.
As the reports emerged, Sudan’s veteran opposition leader Sadiq al Mahdi of the National Umma Party cried foul.
In a statement, he rejected any move to normalise ties with Israel, calling it “treason” and unlawful, and added that his party would file a lawsuit against the authorities and stop its support of the government.
Netanyahu and Burhan held a landmark meeting in Uganda in February.
Israeli intelligence minister Eli Cohen was also quoted in local media as saying Israel was “very close to normalising ties with Sudan,” in comments his foreign affairs advisor Arye Shalicar confirmed.
Sudan experienced a historic shift last year as Bashir was ousted in April in the face of youth-led street protests, and it is now turning the page on decades as an international pariah.
It has launched a series of reforms, put Bashir on trial and is cooperating with the International Criminal Court to try him over his scorched-earth campaign in the Darfur region.