Israeli foreign minister makes first visit to Sudan to talk establishing ties

A visit on Thursday was the first official trip by an Israeli foreign minister to Khartoum

Sudan's leader Abdel Fattah Al Burhan welcomes Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen in Khartoum on February 2. AFP
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Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen held talks on Thursday in Sudan with the country’s ruling generals, which Sudanese military officials said were focused on reviving plans for full diplomatic ties between the two states.

Sudan’s ruling body, the Sovereignty Council, said the talks aimed at establishing “fruitful relations with Israel", and to strengthen co-operation in various sectors, including security, energy and water.

Sudanese leaders also spoke of a need to achieve “stability between Israel and the Palestinian people” after a recent surge in violence, the council said.

In 2020, Sudan signed a normalisation agreement with Israel, joining the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco, as part of the US-brokered Abraham Accords to establish full diplomatic ties.

But in Sudan's case, the process was never finalised as it waits on the ratification by a yet-to-be-formed legislative body, which would follow a democratic transition and elections.

During his visit, Mr Cohen met Sudan's top general, Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan.

There was no immediate comment from Israel.

But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who returned to office in December, appeared to hint that something was in the works before flying to France earlier on Thursday.

“We are continuing to expand the circle of peace,” he said, noting that Chad, which borders Sudan, opened a new embassy in Israel earlier in the day.

“We will continue to expand and deepen the circle of peace with additional countries, both near and far."

A breakthrough with Sudan could help Mr Netanyahu to deflect attention from a recent burst of violence with Palestinians and widespread public anger over his plans to overhaul the country’s judicial system.

Critics say those reforms will badly damage Israel’s democratic system of checks and balances.

Sudan was once one of Israel’s fiercest critics in the Arab world and in 1993 the US designated it a state sponsor of terrorism.

The Trump administration removed Sudan from that list in 2020, a move meant to help the country revive its economy and end its pariah status, and as an incentive to normalise relations with Israel.

Updated: February 04, 2023, 9:40 AM