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Sudanese delegation said planning first visit to Israel next week

Group will include security and intelligence officials, report says; Khartoum voted last week to annul so-called Israel boycott law as part of the normalization efforts

Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen (L) meets with Sudanese Defense Minister Yassin Ibrahim in Khartoum on January 25, 2021 (Courtesy)
Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen (L) meets with Sudanese Defense Minister Yassin Ibrahim in Khartoum on January 25, 2021 (Courtesy)

Sudan is tentatively planning to send its first official delegation to Israel next week following the normalization agreement between Jerusalem and Khartoum, according to a Tuesday report.

The Sudanese representatives will include security and intelligence officials, the Reuters news agency reported, citing an anonymous source.

The Kan public broadcaster previously reported that Israel and Sudan were holding talks about a prospective visit by a Sudanese security delegation.

Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen visited Sudan in January, becoming the first Israeli minister to visit the Arab country following the signing of a normalization deal between the two countries.

Cohen led a delegation from his ministry and from the National Security Council, holding talks with senior Sudanese officials, including Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the ruling sovereign council, and Defense Minister Yassin Ibrahim. Cohen signed a memorandum of understanding with Ibrahim on security-related issues and invited Sudanese leaders to visit Israel.

The planned visit by the Sudanese delegation came after ministers in Khartoum voted last week to annul the so-called Israel boycott law as part of the normalization efforts.

The decision to scrap the 1958 law was confirmed by the Sudanese prime minister’s office, which said ministers also affirmed Sudan’s support for the establishment of a Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution.

Sudanese demonstrators step on an Israeli flag during a rally against their country’s signing of a deal on normalizing relations with the Jewish state, outside the cabinet offices in the capital Khartoum, on January 17, 2021 (ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)

A  joint vote of the cabinet and the ruling sovereignty council must still be held before the law is removed from the books.

The legislation barred the establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel and forbade any business ties with the Jewish state. Penalties for those who violated its stipulations, such as trading with Israelis, included up to 10 years in prison and a hefty fine.

In January, Sudan signed onto the Abraham Accords with the United States, paving the way for the African country to normalize ties with Israel.

The signing came just over two months after then-US president Donald Trump announced that Sudan would start to normalize ties with Israel.

Before Sudan, the Trump administration engineered diplomatic pacts late last year between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and between Israel and Bahrain. Morocco also reestablished diplomatic relations with Israel after cutting ties in 2000 in solidarity with Palestinians during the Second Intifada.

The accords have also contributed to the isolation and weakening of the Palestinian position, by eroding a longstanding Arab consensus that recognition of Israel should only be given in return for concessions in the peace process.

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

Sudan is on a fragile path to democracy after a popular uprising led the military to overthrow longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir in April 2019. The county is now ruled by a joint military and civilian government that seeks better ties with Washington and the West.

In December, Trump’s administration finalized the removal of Sudan from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism. The move was a key incentive for the government in Khartoum to normalize relations with Israel.

Sudan’s economy suffered from decades of US sanctions and mismanagement under al-Bashir, who had ruled the country since a 1989 Islamist-backed military coup.

The designation dated back to the 1990s, when Sudan briefly hosted al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and other wanted terrorists. Sudan was also believed to have served as a pipeline for Iran to supply weapons to Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

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