Sudan’s transitional government said it was not informed of a meeting Monday between the African country’s leader and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyanu in which the two leaders agreed to normalize relations between the nations.
Government spokesman Faisal Mohamed Salih said the cabinet was waiting for Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan to return from Uganda, where he met Netanyahu.
“We received the news about the meeting between chief of the sovereign council and Israeli prime minister through the media,” Salih said in a statement.
“We, the members of the cabinet, were not notified or consulted about this meeting. We are waiting for the chief of the sovereign council to return and give clarification about this.”
The statement was the first official reaction to Burhan’s meeting with Netanyahu, who said the two discussed steps to normalize ties between the countries.
It came shortly after the Palestinians denounced the sit-down in Uganda as a “stab in the back,” days after Sudan voted along with fellow Arab League member states to reject US President Donald Trump’s plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Burhan heads Sudan’s sovereign council, a transitional body of military officials and civilians that was created as part of a power-sharing agreement following the overthrow of longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir last year.
Sudan is desperate to lift sanctions linked to its listing by the US as a state sponsor of terror — a key step toward ending its isolation and rebuilding its economy after the popular uprising that toppled longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir last year.
A Sudanese military official, who was not authorized to brief media and so spoke on condition of anonymity, said Burhan agreed to meet Netanyahu because officials thought it would help “accelerate” the process of being removed from the terror list.
The terror listing dates back to the 1990s, when Sudan briefly hosted Osama bin Laden and other wanted terrorists.
Under al-Bashir, Sudan was also believed to have served as a pipeline for Iran to supply weapons to Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip. Israel was believed to have been behind airstrikes in Sudan that destroyed a convoy in 2009 and a weapons factory in 2012.
An Israeli official told Channel 13 news that Sudan had asked Israel to help it improve ties with the United States and urge the Trump administration to drop the terror designation.
Netanyahu agreed to do so, raising the issue with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo when he was in Washington last week for the rollout of Trump’s peace plan, the network said.
After meeting Burhan, Netanyahu’s office released a statement saying the premier believes Sudan “is headed in a new positive direction” and that he expressed this to Pompeo.
Pompeo phoned Burhan on Sunday and invited him to visit the US, Sudan’s ruling sovereign council said.
The meeting, which Israel said was arranged by Uganda, marked a sharp turnaround for the two countries, once sworn enemies and still technically at war. Sudan — a Muslim-Arab country in northeastern Africa — has recently moved away from Iran’s influence over the latter’s involvement in Yemen, and ousted al-Bashir a year ago.
“We agreed to begin cooperation that will lead to normalization of relations between the two countries,” Netanyahu tweeted. “History!”
A senior Israeli official said the meeting lasted for two hours.
“The agreement was that this meeting serves as the beginning of a process of bilateral cooperation leading to normalization,” the official said. “It’s a good start.”
Israel officials have long expressed a wish for improved ties with Khartoum, citing its importance in the region as well as its geographic location.
Israel has been seeking permission for its planes to overfly Sudan, cutting several hours off of trips to South America.
The senior official said Sudan was expected to give that okay as soon as this week, as part of the normalization process.
Israel last year forged ties with Chad, the other major obstacle to a more direct flight route.
In September, mere days after the new Sudanese cabinet was sworn in, newly appointed Sudanese Foreign Minister Asma Abdullah indicated that her country would be interested in establishing relations with Israel if and when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was solved.
Reports in Israel in recent years have suggested it might normalize diplomatic relations with several Muslim countries in Africa. Israel renewed diplomatic relations with Guinea in 2016. After Netanyahu visited Chad for a renewal of ties in 2019, it was reported that Israel was working to formalize ties with Sudan.