KHARTOUM: Israel and Sudan agreed to work for a peace agreement during a visit by the Jewish state’s foreign minister to Khartoum on Thursday.
It was the first visit by an Israeli official formally acknowledged by Sudan, although there have been a series of exchanges between officials from the two countries in recent years.
Sudan agreed to take steps to normalise ties with Israel in a 2020 deal brokered by former US president Donald Trump’s administration, alongside normalisation agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco, known as the “Abraham Accords”.
In January 2021, Sudan said its justice minister at the time, Nasredeen Abdulbari, had signed the Abraham Accords during a visit by US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Eli Cohen, the Israeli foreign minister, and Sudan’s sovereign council head General Abdel Fattah Al Burhan discussed deepening cooperation between the two countries in security and military matters, as well as in agriculture, energy, health, water and education, Burhan’s office said in a statement.
“It was agreed to move forward towards normalising relations between the two countries,” Sudan’s foreign ministry said.
As intelligence minister in 2021, Cohen made a ground-breaking visit to Sudan.
Sudan’s military, which has been in charge of the country since an Oct 2021 coup but says it intends to hand over power to a civilian government, is seen as having led the move towards establishing relations with Israel.
Civilian groups have been more reluctant and have previously said any deal must be ratified by a transitional parliament that is yet to be formed.
Sudan, an Arab League member, had for decades maintained a rigid anti-Israel stance under longtime autocratic president Omar al-Bashir, who was ousted in April 2019 following mass protests against his rule.
Khartoum was removed from the US blacklist in December 2020 after 27 years of crippling sanctions which strangled Sudan’s economy under Bashir.
In January 2021, Sudan signed a declaration paving the way to normalising ties with Israel, and in April that year, it approved a bill abolishing a 1958 boycott of the country.
Relations were however stymied as political turmoil in Sudan deepened following an October 2021 military coup led by Burhan, derailing the post-Bashir transition to civilian rule.
Sudan’s agreement to normalise relations with Israel upended a longstanding policy after the 1967 six-day war between Arab countries and Israel that saw Israel occupy swathes of territory.
Published in Dawn, February 3rd, 2023
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