KHARTOUM: Sudan said on Tuesday it cannot form diplomatic relations with Israel now, dashing hopes for a speedy breakthrough during a visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok told Pompeo that Sudan’s transitional government — which replaced ousted strongman Omar al Bashir last year and is set to rule until 2022 elections — has “no mandate” to take such a weighty step.
The announcement was a setback to a charm offensive by the US and Israel to forge more ties between the Jewish state and the Arab world following a landmark US-brokered Aug 13 agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
Israel remains technically at war with Sudan, an East African country which for years supported hardline Islamist forces under its former strongman Bashir, and which remains on a US State Department blacklist of backers of terrorism.
Hamdok also urged the US not to link “the subject of lifting Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list and the subject of normalisation with Israel,” his spokesman said.
The coalition which led Sudan’s protest movement, the Forces of Freedom and Change, had also argued earlier that the government has “no mandate” to normalise ties with Israel, noting “the right of Palestinians to their land and to a free and dignified life”.
Hamdok’s office said he had made the same point to Pompeo, the first US Secretary of State to visit Sudan since Condoleezza Rice went there in 2005.
“The prime minister clarified that the transitional period in Sudan is being led by a wide alliance with a specific agenda — to complete the transition, achieve peace and stability in the country and hold free elections,” government spokesman Faisal Saleh said.
Hamdok had told Pompeo that his interim government “does not have a mandate beyond these tasks or to decide on normalisation with Israel”.
Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2020