Israeli Minister Heads Delegation to Sudan to Discuss Normalization

Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen says Israeli officials discussed with their hosts diplomatic and security issues ■ Israel says a Sudanese delegation will hold a reciprocal visit

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Sudanese Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan speaks during a military-backed rally in Omdurman district, west of Khartoum, Sudan, June 29, 2019.
Sudanese Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan speaks during a military-backed rally in Omdurman district, west of Khartoum, Sudan, June 29, 2019.Credit: Hussein Malla / AP

An Israeli cabinet minister on Monday for the first time led an official delegation to Sudan to discuss moving forward on a U.S.-brokered deal in October to normalize relations.

"I am confident this visit lays the foundations for many important collaborations that will assist both Israel and Sudan as well as security stability in the region," Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen said in a statement after returning home.

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There was no immediate comment from Sudanese officials.

Sudan joined the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco last year in agreeing to move toward normal relations with Israel. The new U.S. administration of President Joe Biden has said it wants to build on those deals.

Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen during a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, 2020.Credit: Mark Israel Salam

Cohen, the first minister to head such a trip, said he met with Sudanese leaders and that the Israeli delegation discussed with their hosts a variety of diplomatic and security issues as well as the potential for economic cooperation.

It was agreed that a Sudanese delegation will travel to Israel, according to the Israeli statement. 

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 last year.

In December, the administration of former President Donald Trump removed Sudan from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, a move that could help the African country get international loans to revive its battered economy and end its pariah status.

Sudanese leaders have said explicitly that the United States removing it from a list of countries that support terror is their motivation for normalizing relations with Israel, although the U.S. has played down the link.

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