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Sudan denies knowledge of Israeli delegation’s visit to Khartoum

Spokesman says there should be no form of communication with Jerusalem until normalization deal is approved by transitional government

A man holds a poster with Arabic that reads, 'We will not give up, we will not sell out, we will not agree on normalization,' as others chant slogans to protest Sudanese President of the Sovereignty Council Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan's contentious decision to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a move toward normalizing relations, in Khartoum, Sudan, Feb. 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Marwan Ali)
A man holds a poster with Arabic that reads, 'We will not give up, we will not sell out, we will not agree on normalization,' as others chant slogans to protest Sudanese President of the Sovereignty Council Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan's contentious decision to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a move toward normalizing relations, in Khartoum, Sudan, Feb. 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Marwan Ali)

Sudan’s government on Tuesday denied having information about the visit of an Israeli delegation to Khartoum that an Israeli official had revealed the previous day.

“The cabinet is not aware of an Israeli delegation and we have no confirmation that this visit took place,” government spokesman Faisal Mohammed Saleh told AFP.

“We also have no information on a Sudanese delegation visiting Israel.”

On Monday, a senior Israeli official said the Jewish state had sent a delegation to Sudan — the first such visit since last month’s announcement of an agreement to normalize relations between the two countries.

The Israel-Sudan pact has yet to be formally signed.

“We have a preexisting deal that normalization with Israel should be approved by the transitional parliament,” said Saleh.

Before that happens, “there should not be any form of communication with Israel,” he added.

In this photo from August 31, 2019, Sudan’s ex-president Omar al-Bashir appears in court in the capital Khartoum to face charges of illegal acquisition and use of foreign funds. (Ebrahim Hamid/AFP)

Sudan has yet to form a parliament since the April 2019 ouster of former president Omar al-Bashir following mass protests against his rule.

Hebrew-language media reported on Monday that a delegation had taken off from Ben Gurion Airport on its way to Khartoum for talks between the two countries on the normalization deal.

The delegation, made up of a small group of government officials, came to prepare the groundwork for a larger visit of higher-level Israeli officials in the coming weeks, the Ynet news site reported.

On October 23, US President Donald Trump announced that Sudan would start normalizing ties with Israel, with the two countries 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 ensuing 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 would remove Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. The delisting opened the door for Sudan to get international loans and aid, which it needs 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 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.

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

Israel and Sudan were 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 in recent months as part of US-brokered deals, following the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

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