Sudan says Al-Burhan made no promises to Israel PM

Sudan’s cabinet said Thursday that the country’s leader General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan had made no promise to Israel’s prime minister of “normalizing ties” between the two countries. (File/AFP)
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Updated 06 February 2020

Sudan says Al-Burhan made no promises to Israel PM

  • Sudan’s transitional cabinet said Thursday that meeting Netanyahu was Burhan’s “personal initiative” and he had made no promises to the Israeli premier
  • “The chief of the sovereign council told us ... he did not give any commitment and did not talk of normalizing relations,” a government spokesman said

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s cabinet said Thursday that the country’s leader General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan had made no promise to Israel’s prime minister of “normalizing ties” between the two countries.
Al-Burhan, who heads Sudan’s ruling sovereign council, met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for previously unannounced talks in Entebbe on Monday that appeared to signal an end to Sudan’s long-standing boycott of the Jewish state.
Soon after their meeting, Netanyahu announced that the two leaders had agreed to cooperate toward normalizing ties.
Sudan’s transitional cabinet said Thursday that meeting Netanyahu was Al-Burhan’s “personal initiative” and he had made no promises to the Israeli premier.
“The chief of the sovereign council told us ... he did not give any commitment and did not talk of normalizing relations,” government spokesman Faisal Mohamed Salih told reporters early Thursday.
“He did not give a promise of normalizing or having diplomatic relations.”
Salih said the issue of relations with Israel was something the current transitional government was not mandated to decide.
“This government has a very limited mandate. The issue of relations with Israel is beyond its mandate,” he said.
The transitional government headed by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was formed months after the ouster of longtime despot Omar Al-Bashir amid nationwide protests in April last year.
Al-Burhan heads the ruling sovereign council, a joint civilian and military body tasked with overseeing the country’s transition to civilian rule.
Sudanese top brass have backed Al-Burhan’s initative in holding the meeting, saying it will help boost national security. The cabinet says it was not informed of the meeting in advance.
Sudan has long been part of a decades-old Arab boycott of Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians and its occupation of Arab lands.
After their meeting, Netanyahu’s office said the Israeli premier believed that post-Bashir Sudan was headed “in a positive direction.”
It said he and Al-Burhan had “agreed to start cooperation leading to normalization of the relationship between the two countries.”
The Palestine Liberation Organization called Al-Burhan and Netanyahu’s meeting “a stab in the back of the Palestinian people.”
On Thursday, veteran Sudanese politician Sadeq Al-Mahdi, who was prime minister when Al-Bashir seized power in a coup in 1989, spoke out against normalizing ties with Israel.
“We reject this meeting as it will impact our national interest negatively. We are against it strongly,” Al-Mahdi told reporters.
“We close the door completely for normalizing of relations with Israel.”


Lebanon repatriates nationals in rare flights despite virus

Updated 19 min 17 sec ago

Lebanon repatriates nationals in rare flights despite virus

  • Health personnel in protective gear took the temperature of disembarking passengers
  • Authorities said more than 20,000 had signed up to be repatriated in total this week and at the end of the month

BEIRUT: Lebanon on Sunday started repatriating nationals stranded abroad in its first flight in weeks since it closed its international airport to stem the novel coronavirus.
The first of four planes touched down at the Beirut international airport late Sunday morning bringing in 78 passengers from Riyadh, local television reported.
It showed health personnel in protective gear taking the temperature of disembarking passengers.
The Mediterranean country announced a lockdown and closed its airport on March 18 as part of measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, which has officially infected 527 people and killed 18 nationwide.
An AFP photographer saw a dozen buses outside the airport waiting to transport the passengers.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab had arrived earlier amid heavy deployment of the Lebanese army, he said.
Authorities said more than 20,000 had signed up to be repatriated in total this week and at the end of the month.
Lebanese carrier Middle East Airlines has said flights would also land in Beirut on Sunday from Abu Dhabi, Lagos and Abidjan.
It has also announced return trips to Paris, Madrid and Kinshasa on Tuesday.
Lebanese returning home must either test negative for the virus no longer than three days before their return, or be tested immediately upon arrival, according to government guidelines.
They must pay for their own ticket and their families are not allowed to meet them at the airport.
The government has said priority will be given to those with critical health conditions such as diabetes or cancer, those aged over 60 and under 18, and families.
But critics have complained of steep ticket fares, while a financial crisis has severely restricted transactions from Lebanese bank accounts.
Coronavirus is the latest crisis to hit Lebanon, which is already reeling under a crumbling economy.
Due to an acute liquidity crisis, banks have since September increasingly been restricting access to dollars and have halted money transfers abroad.
On Monday, however, the banking association agreed to allow dollar transfers to Lebanese students outside the country to help them face the coronavirus pandemic, the finance ministry said.
Diab on Sunday told reporters the government was studying the possibility of supporting returning Lebanese students with a ticket.
Lebanese expatriates and activists have clamoured online for MEA to lower the price of its tickets and help those who can’t afford it.
The airline on Friday claimed tickets were more expensive — $650 for an economy class seat from Riyadh and $1,800 for a cheaper fare from Abidjan for example — because planes would be empty on the way out to evacuations.