Published: Wed, February 05, 2020
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

Israel and Sudan set the stage for normalizing relations

Israel and Sudan set the stage for normalizing relations

"One is direct flight from Israel to Uganda".

The Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu personally made the appeal to Museveni during a four hour visit in the country hosted at State House Entebbe.

It remains unclear whether the promise of warming US-Sudanese relations - as Khartoum remains on a US blacklist and subjected to crippling global sanctions - was conditioned on normalising relations with Israel.

Information Minister Faisal Mohamed Saleh, the government's spokesman, said the Cabinet learned of the meeting through the media and was not consulted beforehand.

Atlantic Council senior fellow and former USA diplomat Cameron Hudson told MEE he believed the Trump administration was behind the meeting.

Recognizing Israel, a key US ally, could help Sudan's campaign to persuade Washington to remove it from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, as the country edges toward democracy after longtime leader Omar al-Bashir was ousted past year. It said Netanyahu "believes that Sudan is moving in a new and positive direction, and the prime minister expressed his views to the U.S. Secretary of State".

Sudan's leader, it added, "is interested in helping his country go through a modernization process by removing it from isolation and placing it on the world map". Israeli officials had previously identified Sudan, which under Bashir espoused a form of Islamist government, as a conduit for Iranian weapons bound for Israel's enemies. In 2009, regional sources said, Israeli aircraft bombed an arms convoy in Sudan.

But since Bashir was ousted last April, Khartoum has distanced itself from Iran and no longer poses such a threat, Israeli officials say.

In recent years, Israel has improved ties with African nations, following a hard period when many post-independence African leaders sided with Israel's Arab rivals, and viewed with hostility Israel's support for apartheid South Africa.

Netanyahu also met Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni Monday and called for the opening of missions in each others' countries, during a visit aimed at boosting ties.

"There are two things we very much want to achieve", Netanyahu said to Museveni at a joint press conference. The Ugandan leader responded by saying his government was "studying" the matter. "And second ... you open an embassy in Jerusalem, I'll open an embassy in Kampala".

Regional ally Saudi Arabia last month called for the U.S. to remove that classification.

The PLO official called the meeting a "stab in the back of the Palestinian people and a flagrant walkout on 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".

It gave the Jewish state the green light to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank, as well as the Jordan Valley, a key part of the territory Palestinians see as their future state. Palestinians have rejected the plan.

A senior Palestinian official said Monday's meeting undermined those efforts.

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