Sudan drops 1958 Israel boycott law in 'historic step' towards normalisation

The US welcomed the move that promises 'opportunities for the people of Sudan, Israel, and across the region'

FILE PHOTO: Sudan Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok in Berlin, Germany, February 14, 2020. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/File Photo

Sudan repealed its Israel boycott law in a move welcomed by the US as a 'historic' step towards Khartoum establishing ties with Israel.

The joint meeting of Sudan’s Cabinet and Sovereignty Council passed the decree late on Monday night to abolish the 1958 rule barring diplomatic, business and cultural relations with Israel as well as a blanket ban on interacting with Israeli citizens.

"The United States welcomes Sudan's repeal of its boycott of Israel," State Department Spokesman Ned Price said on Twitter.

“This historic step will create new, promising opportunities for the people of Sudan, Israel, and across the region.”

Last October, Sudan and Israel agreed to normalise relations under an accord sponsored by the US. That deal followed similar agreements signed by the UAE, Bahrain and Israel in August last year and was followed by Morocco in December.

Sudan’s Cabinet voted to repeal the law on April 6, but that decision needed approval by a joint meeting of the Cabinet and the Sovereignty Council to become law.

The Cabinet and the council are the two segments comprising Sudan's transitional administration, which came to office after an August 2019 power-sharing agreement between the pro-democracy group that orchestrated a wave of protests against the rule of dictator Omar Al Bashir and the generals who removed him in April 2019.

The latest move by the Sudanese government regarding Israel removes one more obstacle on the path towards establishing full relations with Israel.

But the countries have already exchanged high-level visits. Sudan also has opened its airspace to civilian Israeli aircraft and the two countries have been exploring ways to upgrade Sudan’s military industries, as well as agricultural and industrial co-operation.

The repeal of the 1958 rule will also remove the threat of fines or 10 years in prison for the roughly 6,000 Sudanese living in Israel if they return home and it opens the door for their relatives to visit them.

Most Arab states adopted a boycott of Israel after the formation of the state in 1948.

It reflected the depth of animosity felt by Arabs towards Israel for decades following several regional conflicts and the displacement of tens of thousands of Palestinians.

Sudanese troops fought alongside Egypt against Israel during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War.

Sudan also housed Egypt’s fighter jets and its air force academy to protect them from Israeli air strikes after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

After the 1967 war, which ended with Israeli victory, Arab leaders met in Khartoum and agreed on policies that shaped the Arab-Israeli conflict for years: no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel and no negotiations with Israel.

During the rule of Al Bashir, Israel launched air strikes on Sudan targeting suspected smuggling routes that it claimed were used to send arms to the Palestinian Hamas group in the Gaza Strip.

Since Khartoum signed the accord to normalise ties with Israel, the US has removed Sudan from the list of states that sponsor terrorism.

That removed international sanctions on Sudan and allowed it to again receive foreign financial assistance and investment from bilateral and international donors.