US-Sudan normalization talks reportedly ‘constructive,’ but no breakthrough

Discussions in UAE end as countries seek to mend ties, in move that would include Israel relations; Israeli TV: Sudanese officials say deal likely ‘very soon’

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R) is welcomed by a Sudanese official in Khartoum on August 25, 2020. (AFP)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R) is welcomed by a Sudanese official in Khartoum on August 25, 2020. (AFP)

US-Sudanese negotiations on the African country normalizing its relations with Washington as well as Israel ended Wednesday without a breakthrough, Axios reported.

Sudan’s new civilian-led government is urgently seeking to be removed from the US blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism, and is seen by Washington as open to becoming the latest Arab state to recognize Israel

Citing sources who were briefed on the content of the discussions held in the United Arab Emirates, the website said disagreements remained over the amount of aid Sudan was demanding from Washington and Abu Dhabi, which mediated the talks.

The head of the Sudanese delegation, General Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan, told the site talks were “useful and constructive,” but did not give estimates as to what could be expected going forward.

According to a report by the official Sudan News Agency, the results of the talks will be presented to the transitional government in Khartoum so as to create “a common vision.”

Earlier in the day Israel’s Channel 13 reported that Sudanese officials had told the network the country would likely announce normalization with Israel “very soon.”

The US is pushing Sudan, and other Arab countries, to normalize ties with Israel and follow the lead of the UAE and Bahrain.

The Sudanese news agency said talks were “serious and frank” and “discussed a number of regional issues, most prominently the future of Arab-Israeli peace.

“This peace will lead to regional stability and preserve the right of the Palestinian people to establish their state…as well as the role that Sudan is expected to play in achieving this peace.”

The talks in the UAE began on Sunday.

Sudan has been among a number of countries touted as possibly inking a deal with Israel, following the diplomatic move made by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain earlier this month.

In this September 15, 2020 file photo, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, US President Donald Trump, Bahrain Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan pose for a photo on the Blue Room Balcony after signing the Abraham Accords during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

Sudan, in exchange for a deal with Israel, is reportedly asking for oil and wheat shipments worth $1.2 billion to cope with recent devastating floods, a $2 billion grant to deal with Sudan’s economic crisis and a commitment of economic support from the US and the UAE over the next three years, according to a report from the Walla news site.

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok said last month that he was currently unable to normalize ties with Israel during a visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, citing the country’s government being a transitional one. The transition period is slated to end in 2022.

Israeli officials have long expressed a wish for better relations with Khartoum, citing its importance in the region as well as its geographic location.

The nation was the birthplace of the Arab League’s 1967 policy refusing negotiations or normalization with Israel, but in recent years it has seemingly softened its stance, moving out of Iran’s sphere of influence as it has desperately sought the removal of US sanctions as a supporter of Hamas, Hezbollah and other terror groups.

However, removal from the terrorism list is also dependent on completion of a compensation agreement for victims of the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. A tentative deal struck several months ago still awaits finalization.

In August, Sudan’s foreign ministry spokesman, Haidar Badawi Sadiq, told Sky News Arabia that Khartoum “aspires towards a peace agreement with Israel… a relationship of equals built upon Khartoum’s interests.”

Those remarks were quickly welcomed by Jerusalem. But hours later Sudan’s acting foreign minister denied knowledge of peace talks with Israel and said Sadiq had not been authorized to comment on the issue. The spokesman was fired for the comments, but said afterward that he did not regret making them.

The foreign ministers of the UAE and Bahrain signed the so-called Abraham Accords in a White House ceremony with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on September 15. The only Arab states Israel previously had official ties with were Egypt and Jordan.

US President Donald Trump, center, with from left, Bahrain Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump, and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, during the Abraham Accords signing ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Numerous Arab states have been named as potential candidates to follow the UAE and Bahrain in agreeing to establish ties with Israel, including Morocco, Sudan and Oman.

On Friday, US President Donald Trump, after meeting with the son of Kuwait’s ruling emir, claimed that the country will likely normalize relations with Israel in the near future, though the country had recently ruled out such a move.

Regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia meanwhile has remained non-committal, reiterating its support for the Arab Peace Initiative, a Saudi-backed proposal from 2002 that promises Israel full diplomatic ties with the entire Muslim world in exchange for the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 border lines.

The agreements with the UAE and Bahrain do not address the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While the Gulf states and other Arab countries support the Palestinians, the Trump administration had persuaded the two countries not to let that conflict keep them from having normal relations with Israel.

Qatar’s ambassador to the US said that his nation, which is located in the Gulf but frequently at odds with its neighbors, has no problem normalizing relations with Israel, but will not do so before a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is reached. Qatar is a frequent interlocutor between Israel and the Hamas terror group.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed