Why the Sudan-Israel normalisation deal will be delayed

The deal, announced with great fanfare at the White House, is still contingent on the approval of a legislative body that doesn’t yet exist

President Donald Trump listens while on a phone call with the leaders of Sudan and Israel, in the Oval Office of the White House, Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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Sudan, with US mediation, became the third state to agree to begin normalising ties with Israel in a matter of weeks.

While the deal is touted by the White House as another regional victory for US President Donald Trump, who will move to remove Khartoum from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, there is likely to be a delay in any tangible progress.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a call with Mr Trump, Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Transitional Council head Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan, touted the coming economic agreements, the business ties and the soon-to-be-established flight connections.

The European Union welcomed the announcement to normalise relations.

"This is a positive development that should contribute to the stabilisation and the prosperity of the Middle East, the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea regions," a spokesperson for the European Commission said on Saturday.

"In this context, the EU recalls its longstanding position that a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict requires a regional inclusive approach and engagement with both parties," they added.

But, the deal depends on legislation in Khartoum from a body that is yet to be set up.

“Agreement on normalisation with Israel will be decided after completion of the constitutional institutions through the formation of the legislative council,” Sudan’s acting foreign minister, Omar Gamareldin, said on state TV on Friday.

The comments came after Reuters quoted a Sudanese government source pointing out that any deal would depend on a council vote.

“The prime minister will proceed in the steps taken by Transitional Council head Abdel Fattah Al Burhan to establish ties with Israel if the legislative council, after it is formed, approves the decision to normalise ties,” the senior source said.

Sudan is in the middle of a transition process that will run until 2022, when free and fair elections are planned. This period was agreed to give leaders a chance to establish institutions, fix the economy and root out vestiges of the regime of Omar Al Bashir, the now-jailed autocracy who ruled the country with an iron fist for decades.

The legislative council will be formed as part of the transition agreement, but it is yet to be agreed.

The 300-seat council – that will include 40 per cent women – will be nominated by the Forces of Freedom and Change, the main group that led the protests against Al Bashir and other factions in the country.

The council will represent the county and be made up of people from all ethnic and religious backgrounds in the diverse nation – including members of the rebel factions in Darfur and Blue Nile State once peace deals have been finalised.

It is unclear when the assembly will be formed.

Khartoum’s caution reflects concerns that such a major foreign policy move at a time of deep economic crisis could upset the delicate balance between military and civilian factions, and even put the government at risk, two senior Sudanese government sources said.