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Reports: US gives Sudan 24 hours to take or leave normalization with Israel

Unconfirmed stories citing Sudanese officials say Khartoum given deadline on deal that would give it aid, remove it from terror list; but country’s PM said to remain opposed

Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok at a press conference in Khartoum, Sudan, August 21, 2019. (AP Photo, File)
Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok at a press conference in Khartoum, Sudan, August 21, 2019. (AP Photo, File)

Washington on Wednesday gave Sudanese leaders a 24-hour deadline to decide whether they agree to a deal that will see the country normalize relations with Israel in exchange for financial aid and removal from a US blacklist of state sponsors of terror, according to several reports in Arabic-language media Thursday.

CNN Arabic and Dubai-based Asharq News both reported the American deadline, citing unnamed high-ranking Sudanese government officials, and said government leaders met for long hours to weigh the offer.

The veracity of the reports could not be immediately confirmed.

According to Asharq, Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok remained opposed to linking normalization with the American deal.

There have been consistent reports of a serious split between the military and civilian players in Sudan’s fragile transitional government, with Hamdok against normalization at this time, while military head of state Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan favors it.

Hamdok has said that the transitional government did not have a mandate to normalize with Israel.

The US has led efforts to pressure Sudan into normalizing ties with Israel. Khartoum’s position on the terror blacklist subjects it to crippling economic sanctions.

Sudanese Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of the military council, speaks during a military-backed rally, in Omdurman district, west of Khartoum, Sudan, June 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

If Sudan does establish open relations with Israel, it would become the third country to make an agreement with the Jewish state in the past month. The United Arab Emirates — one of Sudan’s key patrons — and Bahrain signed normalization agreements with Israel in mid-September as part of the US-mediated Abraham Accords.

A senior Sudanese leader said Friday that his country would likely soon establish ties of some nature with Jerusalem, saying that Khartoum needed Israel and would benefit from relations.

“Israel is developed. The entire world works with Israel. For development, for agriculture — we need Israel,” Sudanese deputy head of state Gen. Mohammad Hamdan Daglo, known popularly as Hemedti, told Sudan24 TV in Juba.

However, Daglo said the ties would fall short of full normalization, out of solidarity with the Palestinians.

US President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Orlando Sanford International Airport, in Sanford, Florida, October 12, 2020. (Evan Vucci/AP)

“We’re not scared of anyone. But these will be relations, not normalization. Relations, not normalization. Okay? We’re following this line,” Daglo said, without giving a timeframe or specifying what, exactly, the difference between relations and normalization would be.

Israeli officials have long expressed a wish for better relations with Khartoum, the birthplace of the Arab League’s famous 1967 resolution against peace and normalization with Israel. The administration of US President Donald Trump, for its part, has reportedly sought to achieve another foreign policy win before the upcoming presidential elections in November.

Negotiations held in Abu Dhabi in September seeking a breakthrough on normalization seemingly bore little fruit. The Sudanese delegation, led by al-Burhan, called the talks “frank and honest” but did not elaborate on their content.

Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report.

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