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Talks underway for Sudanese security delegation to visit Israel – report

Planned trip would come amid normalization drive after ministers in Khartoum voted to annul Israel boycott law

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)

Advanced talks are underway between Khartoum and Jerusalem for a Sudanese security delegation to visit Israel in the near future, the Kan public broadcaster reported.

Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen visited Sudan in January, becoming the first Israeli minister to visit the Arab country following the recent 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, Kan reported Monday. Details of the understandings were not immediately released.

Sudanese demonstrators step on an Israeli flag during a rally against their country’s recent 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)

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.

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.

Then-US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (L) and Sudanese Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari sign the Abraham Accords in Sudan’s capital Khartoum, January 6, 2021. (Screen capture: Facebook)

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.

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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