JEDDAH: Sudan on Tuesday rebuffed efforts by the US to encourage the establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel.
Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Sudan’s transitional government had “no mandate” to take such a step.
“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 told Pompeo that his interim government “does not have a mandate beyond these tasks or to decide on normalization with Israel.”
The rejection was a setback to a US-backed campaign for Israel to establish closer ties with the Arab world after the surprise Aug. 13 agreement with the UAE. That deal was followed up on Tuesday with unprecedented security talks between Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Mohammed Al-Bawardi, the UAE minister of state for defense. “We share important security interests, and collaboration will strengthen regional stability,” Gantz’s office said.
Israel remains technically at war with Sudan, which for years supported hard-line Islamist forces under former dictator Omar Bashir, and is on the 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 normalization with Israel,” his spokesman said.
The coalition that led Sudan’s protest movement, the Forces of Freedom and Change, also rejected diplomatic ties with Israel and defended “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 in 2005.
Pompeo also met Sudan’s Sovereign Council chief Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan for talks that the State Department said would express US “support for deepening the Sudan-Israel relationship.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Burhan in February in Uganda and announced that they had agreed to cooperate toward normalizing ties. Sudan’s Cabinet later denied that Burhan had made such a promise.
Sudan’s joint civilian-military transitional government has pledged to break with the Bashir era, and launched a raft of social and political reforms. Bashir is on trial over the Islamist-backed coup that brought him to power over three decades ago.
The government in Khartoum hopes Washington will remove it from terrorism blacklist as it seeks to rejoin the international community and attract more aid and investment.