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Israel to send first official delegation to Sudan next week — report

Talks between two countries on agriculture, trade, aviation and migration said set to begin Sunday as efforts continue to shore up normalization deal

This combination of pictures created on October 23, 2020, shows an Israeli flag during a rally in the coastal city of Tel Aviv on September 19, 2020; and a Sudanese flag during a gathering east of the capital Khartoum on June 3, 2020. (JACK GUEZ and ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)
This combination of pictures created on October 23, 2020, shows an Israeli flag during a rally in the coastal city of Tel Aviv on September 19, 2020; and a Sudanese flag during a gathering east of the capital Khartoum on June 3, 2020. (JACK GUEZ and ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)

Israel is reportedly planning to send its first delegation to Sudan next week for talks between the two countries on the normalization deal establishing diplomatic relations announced last month.

Quoting a source briefed on the provisional itinerary of the trip, Reuters reported that the delegation will leave Israel for Khartoum on Sunday.

Neither Israeli nor Sudanese sources would confirm the report.

On October 23, US President Donald Trump announced that Sudan would start normalizing ties with Israel with the two set to sign deals covering agriculture, trade, aviation and migration.

Sudan’s Foreign Ministry said at the time that Sudanese and Israeli officials would meet in the coming weeks to discuss a package of cooperation deals to “achieve the mutual interests of the two peoples.”

US President Donald Trump speaks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the phone about a Sudan-Israel peace agreement, in the Oval Office on October 23, 2020. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP)

The normalization deal came after Trump said he was moving to remove Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. The delisting opens the door for Sudan to get international loans and aid. Sudan needs these to revive its battered economy and rescue its transition to democracy, following a popular uprising last year that led the military to overthrow longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

Sudan’s economy has suffered from decades of US sanctions and mismanagement under al-Bashir. The transitional government has been struggling with a huge budget deficit and widespread shortages of essential goods, including fuel, bread and medicine. Annual inflation soared past 200% last month as prices of bread and other staples surged, according to official figures.

Two days after the normalization deal was announced, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said that Israel was sending $5 million worth of wheat to Sudan to help with the economic crisis.

“We are looking forward to a warm peace and are sending $5 million worth of wheat immediately to our new friends in Sudan,” the Prime Minister’s Office tweeted.

File: Sudanese and Eritrean refugees in south Tel Aviv in 2011 (Nicky Kelvin/Flash90)

Israel and Sudan are also expected to discuss the fate of some 6,000 Sudanese asylum seekers currently in Israel, with Jerusalem reportedly having drawn up a proposal to send back refugees willing to return to their home country.

Asylum seekers from Sudan make up about 20 percent of the 33,000 African migrants currently in Israel.

Sudan is the third Arab state to signal a willingness to normalize ties with Israel this year as part of US-brokered deals, following the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

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