Israel and Sudan on Friday agreed to normalize relations in a deal brokered with the help of the United States, making Sudan the third Arab country to set aside hostilities with Israel in the past two months.
U.S. President Donald Trump, seeking re-election on November 3, sealed the agreement in a phone call on Friday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Transitional Council Head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, senior U.S. officials said.
Netanyahu welcomed the announcement and hailed the third Arab country to join the “expanding the circle of peace.”
“In Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, the Arab League adopted the 'three nos' in 1967: No to peace with Israel, no to recognition of Israel, and no to negotiations with Israel. Today, however, Khartoum is saying the opposite: Yes to peace with Israel, yes to recognition of Israel, and yes to normalization with Israel. This is truly a new age," Netanyahu said.
He also announced that delegations between the two countries will soon meet in order to discuss cooperation in a variety of fields, among them agriculture and trade, and added that the "skies of Sudan are open to Israel today," allowing for direct and shorter flights between Israel and Africa and South America.
Netanyahu thanked Transitional Council Head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, as well as President Trump and his team.
As part of the agreement, Trump took steps to remove Sudan from a U.S. government list of countries promoting terrorism. A senior U.S. official said Trump signed a document on Air Force One on Thursday night to notify Congress of his intention to remove Sudan from the list.
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"The leaders agreed to the normalization of relations between Sudan and Israel and to end the state of belligerence between their nations," according to a joint statement issued by the three countries.
However, the agreement will depend on approval from Sudan's yet-to-be formed legislative council, Sudan's acting Foreign Minister Omar Gamareldin said on state TV.
Sudan followed a path begun by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in striking deals aimed at normalizing relations with Israel.
In recent months, senior Sudanese officials gave seemingly contradictory messages on the possibility of establishing formal relations with Israel, although such relations have existed in practice for some time, and even included an open meeting between Netanyahu and the leader of the transitional government Abdel Fattah al-Burhan during his visit to Uganda earlier this year.
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It was also reported that the head of the Mossad, Yossi Cohen, also met with the leadership in preparation for the possibility of open normalization. In return, Sudan expected that the U.S. would remove it from a list of countries that support terror, and thus having sanctions against Khartoum lifted.
Sudanese leaders have even said explicitly that this is their motivation for normalizing relations with Israel, although the U.S. has played down the link.
The agreement was negotiated on the U.S. side by Trump senior adviser Jared Kushner, Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz, national security adviser Robert O'Brien, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security official Miguel Correa.
"This is obviously a great breakthrough," Kushner told Reuters. "This is obviously going to create a big breakthrough peace between Israel and Sudan. Getting peace agreements done are not as easy as we are making them look right now. They are very hard to do."
A signing ceremony was expected to be held at the White House in coming weeks, the officials said.
The joint statement said the leaders agreed to begin economic and trade relations, with an initial focus on agriculture.
Delegations from each country will meet in the following weeks to negotiate agreements of cooperation in those areas as well as in agriculture technology, aviation, migration issues and other areas, the statement said.
The statement said Sudan's transitional government has "demonstrated its courage and commitment to combating terrorism, building its democratic institutions, and improving its relations with its neighbors."
As a result, "the United States and Israel agreed to partner with Sudan in its new start and ensure that it is fully integrated into the international community," the statement said.
Kushner called the normalization deals the start of a "paradigm shift" in the Middle East. He said Sudan's decision was symbolically significant because it was in Khartoum in 1967 that the Arab League decided not to recognize Israel's right to exist.
The agreement was met with unanimous condemnation from Palestinian officials.
President Mahmoud Abbas’ office published a statement rejecting the agreement, and stating that “No one has the right to speak in the name of the Palestinian people and in the name of the Palestinian cause."
Meanwhile, senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said: “The announcement of normalization between Sudan and Israel hurts, and is inconsistent with Sudan’s historic position of always supporting the rights of the Palestinian people.”
Islamic Jihad also criticized the Sudanese regime for taking the “shameful step” of normalization and said that the agreement “threatens the identity and future of Sudan and the principles of the Arab world.” They also added that they are “confident that the Sudanese people and national parties will not agree to this betrayal and will overcome this historic test, designed to change the face of Sudan.”