Sudan leader briefs ruling body over talks with Israeli PM

4 min

Khartoum (AFP)

Sudan's leader Tuesday briefed the country's ruling body after the Israeli prime minister said the two had discussed normalising bilateral ties after decades of hostility.

On Monday, Benjamin Netanyahu's office said he had met General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, chairman of Sudan's ruling sovereign council, in the Ugandan city of Entebbe in a previously unannounced meeting.

Israel remains technically at war with Sudan, which supported hardline Islamist forces during the decades-long reign of autocrat Omar al-Bashir, who was ousted amid mass protests last year.

The Palestinian leadership has denounced Burhan's talks with Netanyahu which came days after the Israeli leader and US President Donald Trump unveiled a controversial plan to resolve the Middle East dispute that is widely seen as skewed towards Israel.

Netanyahu's office said Monday that he and the Sudanese general had "agreed to start cooperation leading to normalisation of the relationship between the two countries".

Sudan's cabinet said it had been unaware of such talks and convened Tuesday to discuss the issue.

Sudan's sovereign council, a transitional body of civilians and military officials led by Burhan, also held a meeting where the issue was being discussed, a source told AFP.

The source said Burhan, who had now returned from Entebbe, was briefing the council about his meeting with Netanyahu.

Netanyahu's office said on Monday that he believed post-Bashir Sudan is headed "in a new positive direction" and that he had also expressed this view to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

"Burhan is eager to help his country modernise by taking it out of isolation and putting it on the world's map," it said.

The Uganda meeting came after Sudan said Pompeo had invited Burhan to Washington for an official visit, the first such invitation to a Sudan ruler in more than three decades.

The United States still classifies Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism, a legacy from the rule of Bashir who in the 1990s welcomed Osama bin Laden.

- 'Stab in the back' -

Late on Monday, Sudan's government spokesman Faisal Mohamed Salih said the cabinet had only learned of the meeting at Entebbe through the media.

"We, the members of the cabinet, were not notified or consulted about this meeting," Salih said in a statement.

Sudan under Bashir was part of the decades-long Arab boycott of Israel over the Jewish state's treatment of the Palestinians.

The Palestinians have been seeking a united front since Trump last week unveiled his Middle East plan.

The initiative gave the Jewish state the US green light to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank, as well as the Jordan Valley, a key part of the territory Palestinians see as their future state.

"This meeting is a stab in the back of the Palestinian people... at a time when the administration of President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu are trying to liquidate the Palestinian cause," Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said in a statement carried on official news agency WAFA.

The Sudanese Communist Party, which is part of the umbrella protest movement that led to the ouster of Bashir last April, also condemned the Burhan-Netanyahu meeting, using the same phrase.

"What happened at the meeting between Burhan and Netanyahu is a stab in the back of Sudanese people's struggle against imperialists and also their continuous position in supporting the Palestinians," party spokesman Fathi Fadoul said in a video broadcast on the party's Facebook page.

"We also condemn the statement from the cabinet. The cabinet has to say directly what its position is about the meeting rather than saying it was not notified about it."

In the wake of the 1967 war in which Israel captured Palestinian lands, Arab leaders met in the Sudanese capital Khartoum to announce what became known as the 'three nos' -- no peace, recognition or negotiations with Israel.

Since then Egypt and Jordan have recognised Israel, and relations have also been easing between Israel and Gulf Arab states due to shared concern over Iran's role in the region.