Sudan PM condemns meeting with Netanyahu, military backs it

Abdalla Hamdok says his cabinet, not transitional council chief, should handle all issues relating to foreign affairs

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, center, waves to people in the conflict-affected remote town of Kauda, Nuba Mountains, Sudan, January 9, 2020. (Nariman El-Mofty/AP)
Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, center, waves to people in the conflict-affected remote town of Kauda, Nuba Mountains, Sudan, January 9, 2020. (Nariman El-Mofty/AP)

CAIRO — Sudan’s prime minister appeared rattled Wednesday by the meeting this week between the head of his country’s transitional council and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, insisting that all decisions related to Sudan’s foreign affairs “should be made” exclusively by his Cabinet.

However, Sudan’s military said it backed the surprise meeting between the country’s leader and Netanyahu in Uganda this week, saying the contact would help boost national security.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s remarks were latest in a flurry of comments from government officials, Sudanese political parties and public figures who were stunned by the meeting, which was kept secret until Netanyahu announced during a visit to Uganda that he had met there with Sudanese Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan and that Israel and Sudan were working towards normalizing relations. For Israel, it was a major diplomatic breakthrough with a Muslim-majority African state.

Hamdok’s government said it wasn’t consulted and only learned of the meeting through the media. Burhan is Sudan’s de facto leader and heads its military-civilian transitional council established following autocrat Omar al-Bashir’s ouster in a popular uprising that ended his 30-year rule last April.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni (R) and Uganda’s First Lady Janet Museveni (2nd-R) pose for photo with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara Netanyahu at the State House in Entebbe, Uganda, February 3, 2020. (Sumy Sadurni/AFP)

“The road to meaningful change in Sudan is riddled with challenges and obstacles,” Hamdok tweeted. “However, we must understand that abiding to legal institutional roles and responsibilities is key to building a truly democratic state.”

“The transitional government as a whole must ensure accountability, responsibility and transparency in all decisions made,” he added.

Sudanese Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan, head of the transitional government, in June 2019. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Hamdok however welcomed Burhan’s statement later on Tuesday that Sudan still backs the Palestinian people’s aspirations to have their independent state.

Khartoum has been a longtime member of the Arab League and joined other members at a meeting in Cairo on Saturday in rejecting US President Donald Trump’s plan for settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is seen as heavily favoring Israel and rejecting key Palestinian demands.

Israel remains technically at war with Sudan, which supported hardline Islamists including al-Qaeda during the three-decade rule of autocrat Omar al-Bashir, ousted amid mass protests last year.

On Tuesday, Burhan briefed the sovereign council and top ministers about his meeting, saying he took the step to meet Netanyahu “to protect the national security of Sudan.”

The vote of support for Burhan from the military came after top officers met at army headquarters in Khartoum.

“There was a meeting at the army headquarters today, and those present in the meeting were briefed about the visit of the army’s commander to Uganda and its impact on Sudan’s national security,” military spokesman Brigadier Amir Mohamed Al-Hassan told AFP on Wednesday.

“The army is in favor of this (Burhan-Netanyahu) meeting as it is in the interest of Sudan’s national security.”

Soon after the meeting Netanyahu’s office put out a statement saying that said he believed that post-Bashir Sudan was headed “in a positive direction.”

It said he and Burhan had “agreed to start cooperating leading to normalization of the relationship between the two countries.”

Sudan under Bashir was part of the decades-long Arab boycott of Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians and occupation of Arab lands.

In the wake of the Six Day War of 1967 in which Israel took control of the Palestinian territories and seized the Golan Heights from Syria, Arab leaders held a historic meeting in Khartoum to announce what became known as the “three nos” — no peace, no recognition, no negotiations with Israel.

The Palestine Liberation Organization called Burhan and Netanyahu’s meeting “a stab in the back of the Palestinian people.”

In a statement carried on official news agency WAFA, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat accused Netanyahu and his US allies of “trying to liquidate the Palestinian cause.”

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