Sudan on Friday became the latest Arab nation to agree to recognise Israel in a diplomatic triumph for president Donald Trump announced days before US elections.
The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed an accord at the White House last month to normalise relations with Israel but Sudan carries added symbolism as an Arab nation that has been at war with Israel.
Trump announced the agreement by Sudan’s year-old civilian-backed government moments after he formally moved to end the nation’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, achieving a major objective for Khartoum.
Reporters were escorted into the Oval Office where Trump was on speakerphone with Sudan’s leadership and Israeli prime minister Benjamin
Netanyahu, a close ally of the embattled Republican president.
‘This truly changes the region. It changes the lives of our peoples for the better and allows us to focus on the task of building our nations, building our future,’ Netanyahu was heard telling Trump.
Trump said that more Arab states are also looking to recognise Israel including regional power Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s two holiest cities.
‘We have at least five more that want to come in and we’ll have many more than that soon,’ Trump said in a room packed with visibly happy aides, few of them wearing masks despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Until last month, the only Arab nations to recognize Israel were Jordan and Egypt — neighbors of the Jewish state that had made peace after US mediation.
The Palestinian leadership has been outraged at Arab states’ willingness to recognise Israel without any progress on establishing a Palestinian state.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’ office voiced ‘condemnation and rejection’ of the deal between Sudan and the ‘Israeli occupation country which usurps Palestinian land.’
While Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have found common cause with Netanyahu and Trump against Iran, Sudan appears mostly driven by a desperate economic situation that has fueled new protests in recent days.
Both the United States and Israel committed to building trade with Sudan, an impoverished, conflict-torn nation that had faced years of criticism over its violent internal campaigns until the fall of dictator Omar al-Bashir last year.
In a three-way statement, Sudan and Israel said delegations would meet ‘in the coming weeks to negotiate agreements of cooperation’ including on agriculture, aviation and migration.
‘The leaders agreed to the normalization of relations between Sudan and Israel and to end the state of belligerence between their nations,’ it said, without setting a date.
As part of the deal to get off the terror blacklist, the White House said that Sudan’s transitional government had deposited $335 million to compensate survivors and family members of victims of the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania as well as other attacks by al-Qaeda, which Bashir had welcomed.
Sudan’s civilian prime minister, Abdulla Hamdok, thanked Trump over the terror designation and, in the Oval Office, said Sudan was a ‘tolerant, peace-loving country.’
‘This decision will open wide the door to Sudan’s deserved return to the international community,’ Hamdok’s office said in a statement that did not mention ties with Israel.
Also on the telephone call was Sudan’s top general, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who met Netanyahu earlier this year in Uganda.
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