Khartoum, Sudan (AFP):
Sudan’s army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan hosted Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, in the first official visit by a top Israeli diplomat to Khartoum, Sudanese authorities said.
Sudan in January 2021 formally agreed to normalise relations with Israel in a quid pro quo for the United States removing it from its list of “state sponsors of terrorism.” However, ties have yet to be formalised.
Cohen, who was then Israel’s intelligence minister, also led the first official delegation to Sudan.
In 2020, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco normalized relations with Israel as part of the US-brokered “Abraham Accords.” These were criticized by the Palestinians as they compromised on Palestinians’ right to self-determination and statehood by recognizing the occupier-state without making it commit to the two-state solution. Palestinians see these normalization treaties as a “stab in the back.”
Sudan, an Arab League member, had for decades maintained a rigid anti-Israel stance under president Omar al-Bashir, who was ousted in April 2019 following mass protests against his rule.
Khartoum was removed from the US blacklist in December 2020 after 27 years of crippling sanctions which strangled Sudan’s economy under Bashir.
In January 2021, Sudan signed a declaration paving the way to normalising ties with Israel, and in April that year, it approved a bill abolishing a 1958 boycott of the country.
Sudan’s agreement to normalize relations with Israel upended a longstanding policy after the 1967 Six-Day War between Arab countries and Israel that saw Israel occupy swathes of territory.
Arab leaders gathered in Khartoum after the defeat, announcing a resolution that became known as the “three nos”: no peace, no recognition and no negotiations with Israel.
Burhan has over the years defended the normalization with Israel, saying in a December 2021 interview that it was “essential for Sudan to return to the international community”.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who returned to power late last year at the head of the most right-wing government in the country’s history, has made broadening Israeli ties across the Arab and Muslim world a foreign policy priority.
Netanyahu has repeatedly expressed his desire to see Saudi Arabia join the Abraham Accords.
The kingdom’s top diplomat said last month it would not normalize ties with Israel in the absence of a two-state solution with the Palestinians.