US, UAE said holding ‘decisive’ meeting with Sudan over Israel normalization

Report says Khartoum asking for billions in economic assistance in return for agreement with Jerusalem; if demands met, announcement could come within days

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stands with Sudanese Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of the ruling sovereign council, in Khartoum, Sudan, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020. (Sudanese Cabinet via AP)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stands with Sudanese Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of the ruling sovereign council, in Khartoum, Sudan, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020. (Sudanese Cabinet via AP)

Sudanese officials are holding a “decisive” meeting with counterparts from the US and UAE over signing a normalization deal with Israel, the Walla news site reported 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 on Tuesday.

According to the report, which was also published in English on the Axios website, Sudan is asking for a wide-reaching economic support package, and if an agreement is reached, could announce a deal with Israel in the coming days.

Sudan 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.

A man wades through a flooded road in the town of Shaqilab, about 15 miles (25 km) southwest of the capital, Khartoum, Sudan, Monday, Aug. 31, 2020. (AP Photo/Marwan Ali)

According to the report, the US is being represented at the talks by White House National Security Council’s senior director for the Gulf and North Africa, Gen. Miguel Correa. The UAE is being represented by national security adviser Tahnoon Bin Zayed.

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.

Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Haidar Badawi Sadiq was fired on August 19, 2020, a day after expressing support for peace with Israel. (YouTube screenshot)

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 Tuesday. The only Arab states Israel previously had official ties with were Egypt and Jordan.

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

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.

US President Donald Trump, center, with from left, Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 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, September 15, 2020, in Washington. (Alex Brandon/AP)

On Friday, US President Donald Trump, after meeting with the son of Kuwait’s ruling emir, said that the country will likely normalize relations with Israel in the near future.

The Kuwaitis “are so excited that we signed the first two countries and I think they’ll end up fairly quickly being a part of it,” Trump said at a White House press briefing after he bestowed a top honor on Kuwait’s Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, which his eldest son accepted on his behalf.

Trump reiterated his claim that a number of Arab states were eager to ink deals with Israel following the historic accords with the UAE and Bahrain.

“I have, I would say, seven or eight countries that want to be a part of it,” Trump said. “Nobody thought this would happen and not only is it happening, it’s happening rather easily.”

“I had two calls this morning with countries that want to know, ‘When can we go into the deal?’ It’s not that we’re giving them anything. They want security, they want peace, and they’re really tired of fighting,” Trump said.

He acknowledged that he had only discussed the issue “very briefly” with the visiting Kuwaiti sheikh before adding that the “whole thing is now a beautiful puzzle that’s coming together nicely. The Middle East is straightening out with all that’s happening.”

Last month, unnamed senior Kuwaiti officials rejected the possibility of normalizing ties with Israel, telling the local al-Qabas newspaper that despite warming ties between the Gulf states and Jerusalem, it had no interest in changing its longstanding regional policies.

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 Saudi Arabian royal family is reportedly split over possible future ties with Israel following landmark agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

According to the report, King Salman bin Abdulaziz has come into conflict with his son, de facto leader crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, with the latter said to be in favor of the move.

Qatar’s ambassador to the US said on Wednesday 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.

Trump said after Tuesday’s signing ceremony that he expected “seven or eight or nine” more countries to normalize ties with Israel, including Saudi Arabia.

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