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Struggling Sudan eyes yield of Israel deal

‘We shouldn’t remain captives to the past and isolationist ideologies’

From left: The President of the Sudanese Transitional Council General Abdel Fattah Al Burhan; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; and Sudan's Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok.
Image Credit: AFP

Cairo: Sudan’s agreement to normalise ties with Israel after decades of enmity nourishes Sudanese hopes for pumping badly needed investments and technology into the country’s ailing economy.

Sudan’s development has felt the brunt of the longtime regime of autocrat Omar Al Bashir who was ousted by the army in April last year after months of street protests against economic woes. Al Bashir, who forged alliances with notorious militant groups, governed Sudan for about 30 decades of oppression and impoverishment.

The north-eastern African country of around 34.8 million people is being ruled by a transitional military-civilian body that is seeking to end Sudan’s international pariah-like status.

US President Donald Trump on Friday announced the normalisation pact between Israel and Sudan shortly after he signed a waiver to remove the latter’s name from Washington’s blacklist of the states sponsoring terrorism. In 1993, the US included Sudan in the terror list to punish Al Bashir’s regime for its links with Al Qaeda and other radical groups.

Both the normalisation deal and the supportive US move are widely expected to ease the post-Bashir burden on Sudan, encouraging an inflow of global business and technology transfer mainly in agriculture.

“This is a historical day for our people who for 27 years suffered from being on the #SSTL. We thank @realDonaldTrump for taking us off this list. We now hope to move forward with our country and build balanced international relationships for a Sudan of Freedom, Peace and Justice,” Mohammed Hamdan Daglo, the deputy chief of the ruling Sovereignty Council, tweeted in English.

Normalising ties with Israel has drawn official and public backing in Sudan. “When the normalisation agreement is endorsed, Sudan will reap enormous gains,” Sudan’s acting Foreign Minister Omar Gamareldin said. “This agreement ends state of enmity with the State of Israel. This will be followed by a lot of diplomatic, political, economic and investment,” he added.

Even before the US-mediated pact was announced, a Sudanese alliance of civil society groups called for expediting normalisation with Israel.

“Setting up ties with Israel does not mean giving up the Palestinians’ rights,” said Amir Fayet, the head of a popular pro-normalisation initiative. “We shouldn’t remain captives to the past and isolationist ideologies. There isn’t any justification preventing normalisation with Israel,” he told a press conference in Khartoum earlier this month when the initiative was launched.

“Hostility against Israel is illogical. Time has come to normalise relations between the two countries,” Al Sadeq Ishaq, the head of the pro-normalisation alliance, said. “There is consensus among most of the Sudanese people that reasons for enmity with Israel no longer exist,” he told Sudan Tribune portal.

Ishaq, who leads a Sudanese-Israeli friendship group, said that he had directly written to chief of Sudan’s Sovereignty Council, Abdul Fatah Al Burhan, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu asking them to “immediately” sign the normalisation pact, exchange ambassadors and initiate direct flights between the two countries.

“In the name of a large and wide sector of the Sudanese people, we call on you to fulfil hopes and wishes of the Sudanese people that are certainly the Israeli people’s wishes,” he said.

In February Al Burhan and Netanyahu held a ground-breaking meeting in Uganda, raising prospects for normalization between the two nations.

Sudan becomes the third Arab country to forge a peace pact with Israel in about two months after the UAE and Bahrain.