After Israel Visit, Pompeo in First Official Direct Flight to Sudan, May Add Oman Stop

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Pompeo during a news conference after meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, August 24, 2020
Pompeo during a news conference after meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, August 24, 2020Credit: POOL New/ REUTERS

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo left Israel for Sudan on Tuesday, in what he said was the first official non-stop flight between the two countries.

"Happy to announce that we are on the FIRST official NONSTOP flight from Israel to Sudan!" Pompeo said on Twitter.

Pompeo arrived in Israel Monday for a trip that is part of U.S. efforts to enlist additional Muslim countries to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, in the wake of the normalization deal with the United Arab Emirates.

American officials said Pompeo may also visit another country after Sudan, Bahrain and the UAE. Sources familiar with his tour said the extra stop will likely be Oman.

U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook and Spokesperson for the Department of State Morgan Ortagus declined to respond to a Haaretz query on the matter on Monday.

The two said they are hopeful Sudan will normalize relations with Israel but that this is independent of its removal from the list of terror-supporting counties.

Hook told Haaretz that Israel's value is rising as countries seek agreements related to security, cyber, health and sports, and such normalization achievements would be a defeat for Iran. 

Pompeo will meet with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Sovereign Council chairman General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan to “express support for deepening the Sudan-Israel relationship,” Ortagus said. Pompeo will also discuss U.S. support for the civilian-led transitional government in Sudan.

Senior Sudanese officials have sent seemingly contradictory messages in recent days concerning the country’s willingness to establish official diplomatic relations with Israel, even though in practice such relations have existed for some time – and have even included an overt meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and al-Burhan during Netanyahu’s visit to Uganda early this year.

Pompeo will then travel to Manama to meet with Crown Prince of Bahrain Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa. Bahrain is the country that both Israel and the United States have set most of their hopes on and Pompeo will discuss with the country’s leaders the agreement with the UAE in an attempt to convince them to join the regional initiative. But experts say that Saudi Arabia’s unwillingness to accept the possibility of joining too could very well harm the efforts to recruit Bahrain. 

Netanyahu visited Oman in 2018, and met with then-Sultan Qaboos bin Said. Netanyahu's office said that the two discussed "ways to promote a peace process" and "subjects of mutual interest for achieving peace and stability in the Middle East. 

Oman is expected to be among the next countries to follow the UAE in striking a normalization agreement with Israel. At a White House press briefing following the announcement of the UAE-Israel deal, U.S. officials named it as the next country likely to normalize ties.  

Oman's sultan appointed a new foreign minister on Wednesday, a day after his de facto predecessor spoke to his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi against the backdrop of deal with UAE. 

Local and Arab media have noted that the dismissal took place after the conversation with Ashkenazi, but stopped short of describing it as a critical factor behind the move, noting a number of other issues such as strained relationships with leaders of other Gulf nations. 

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