The head of Israel's Mossad spy agency, Yossi Cohen, has met with a senior Sudanese official, the London-based newspaper Al-Araby al-Jadid reported on Friday.
According to the report, which Sudan denies, the United Arab Emirates brokered the meeting between Cohen and General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy head of Sudan's Sovereignty Council.
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Last week, Israel and the UAE announced that they had reached an agreement that would lead to a full normalization of diplomatic relations between both countries.
Senior Emirati officials, including National Security advisor Tahnoun bin Zayed, participated in the meeting held between Cohen and Dagalo, the report said, adding that senior officials in the Sudanese military are interested in warming ties with Israel. Moreover, it was reported that the UAE is trying to advance Israel's ties with additional Arab countries in the region.
Sudan's Sovereign Council assumed power in August, 2019, several months after the overthrow of longtime President Omar al-Bashir. The council is tasked with leading the country to an election after a transitional period of 39 months.
A spokesperson for the council, Mohamed al-Faki, said he knows nothing about such a meeting, adding that the council has never discussed the matter.
According to him, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the chief of Sudan's Sovereignty Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, agreed that Sudan's civilian government would be in charge of holding contacts with Israel. Netanyahu and al-Burhan met in Uganda in February.
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On Wednesday, Sudan's Foreign Ministry fired a spokesperson who expressed hope for a peace deal with Israel, Al Jazeera reported, after the ministry walked back the statement on Tuesday.
The Sudanese ministry's spokesperson Haidar Badawi Sadiq said Sudan is looking forward to making a peace deal with Israel following the deal to normalize ties between Israel and the UAE.
Shortly afterwards, Arab media outlets reported that Sudan's Foreign Minister Omar Qamar al-Din Ismail walked back the claims, saying that a deal with Israel had not been discussed. The foreign minister said Sadiq was not authorized to remark on Sudan's relationship with Israel.
But a Sudanese government official told the Associated Press that in recent months Israel and Sudan have been holding talks, with Egypt, the UAE and the United States serving as mediators. “It’s a matter of time. We are finalizing everything. The Emirati move encouraged us and helped calm some voices within the government who were afraid of backlash from the Sudanese public,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Israel views Sudan as having strategic importance because Iranian arms destined for Gaza are smuggled through it, via Egypt and Sinai. In addition, arms are sent to Polisario rebels fighting against Moroccan rule in Western Sahara.