Sudan confirms link: It agreed to Israel ties for terror delisting, economic aid

Khartoum sells deal as economic boon; Sudanese and Israeli officials will meet in the coming weeks to discuss cooperation, including on agriculture and trade

Sudanese pro-democracy supporters celebrate a final power-sharing agreement with the ruling military council August 17, 2019, in the capital, Khartoum. (AP)

Sudan on Sunday confirmed that it had agreed to normalize ties with Israel in exchange for being removed from the US terror blacklist, acknowledging for the first time the existence of linkage between the two, which it had previously denied.

A statement from the cabinet of Khartoum’s transitional government highlighted the various economic benefits of the deal, which will include badly needed aid and access to global financial institutions, previously refused due to the terror listing.

“The revocation of Sudan from the terrorist list allows the country to deal with the international financial institutions and the full benefitting from the development grants and international aid,” a statement from the cabinet said, according to the Sudan News Agency.

The Council of Ministers also underlined that the deal will allow the country to reenter the international banking system, the report said.

The ministers said the agreement to speak to Israel about normalizing ties came after a year of “hard negotiations,” with the US, in which Washington insisted on linking the delisting to Israel, a stance Khartoum rejected.

This combination of pictures created on October 24, 2020 shows (L to R): the President of the Sudanese Transitional Council General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan on the outskirts of the capital Khartoum on October 30, 2019; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC on January 28, 2020; and Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdullah Hamduk in the capital Khartoum on July 26, 2020.(ASHRAF SHAZLY and Sarah Silbiger / various sources / AFP)

“The government believes that the Sudanese people have the right to decide on the matter of the relationship with Israel through its constitutional institutions, which have not yet been completed,” it said.

Any normalization agreement would need to be confirmed by a transitional parliament, which has yet to be formed.

On Friday, US President Donald Trump announced that Sudan would start normalizing ties with Israel. The statement said the deals would cover agriculture, trade, aviation and migration, but did not provide details on the timing or location of the meetings.

President Donald Trump speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the phone about a Sudan-Israel peace agreement, in the Oval Office on October 23, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump announced that Sudan and Israel are making peace. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP)

The normalization deal comes days after Trump said he was moving to remove Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. The delisting would open 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.

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

Ofir Gendelman, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, tweeted Sunday saying that Israel was “sending $5 million worth of wheat immediately to our new friends” in Sudan.

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.

Workers offload sacks of cereals from the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) off a truck in Minkaman, South Sudan, June 26, 2014 (AP Photo/Matthew Abbott)

Sudan’s Foreign Ministry said Sunday that the US would also work with its international partners to relieve the country’s foreign debt, which exceeds $60 billion. Both the US and Israel would also help Sudan “consolidate its democracy, enhance food security… and fight terrorism,” it said.

Sudan has agreed to designate Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement as a terrorist organization, something that Israel has long sought from its neighbors and others in the international community, a senior US official said last week.

Hezbollah condemned Sudan’s deal with Israel in a statement Sunday, saying it was made “in return for a miserly and insignificant price” and would lead to the downfall of the transitional government.

Siddig Tower, a member of the 11-member sovereign council that rules Sudan, criticized normalization with Israel in comments aired by Qatar’s Al-Jazeera satellite news channel Sunday.

Tower said Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of the sovereign council, and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok made the decision to normalize “without consultations within the sovereign council or the Cabinet.”

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.

The Palestinians say the recognitions amount to betrayal.

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