Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir said on Saturday that his country refused a request by Kenya's national airline to fly over Sudan's airspace on the way to Israel.
Bashir said this in an interview to a local television station in response to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's statement that Sudan would allow Israeli airliners to overfly Sudan en route to South America.
In November, it was reported that Netanyahu is working to establish diplomatic ties with Sudan. The president of Chad, Idriss Deby, arrived in Israel earlier that month after 46 years in which diplomatic ties between the two countries were severed.
In the interview, Bashir denied the possibility of normalizing relations with Israel. Bashir said on Thursday that he was advised to begin normalizing relations with Israel in order to improve conditions in his country, but now says that Sudan will not be the first nor the last to normalize relations with Israel.
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- Sudan president: I was advised to normalize relations with Israel to help stabilize country
Sudan's president added that it was an "American friend" of his who had suggested normalizing relations with Israel would solve Sudan's problems, but added that the "Zionist lobby that controls Western countries" is behind the sanctions on Sudan.
Bashir said that Israel's power doesn't lie in "the military and material force" but in weakening its enemies. He added that Israel has a full plan to destroy the Arab countries around it, saying it has supported the rebels fighting against him and is behind the economic and diplomatic siege on Sudan. He also added that Israel has bombed Sudan's capital city, Khartoum, twice.
Bashir's comment came as his government continued to face protests that have roiled the country for the past several months, and which have been met with violence and repression on the part of security forces. The International Criminal Court charged him in 2009 with crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur, where Sudanese forces killed hundreds of thousands of non-Arab members of tribal groups.
In November, the Sudanese government denied that Israel was working to reestablish diplomatic ties with Khartoum. Two years ago, after Sudan severed its relationship with Iran, Haaretz reported that Israel had urged the United States and other countries to improve their relationship with the Arab African country in response. The Foreign Ministry’s assessment at the time was that Sudan severed its ties with Iran in 2015 because arms smuggling via Sudan to the Gaza Strip had halted and the Sudanese were drawing closer to the Sunni Arab bloc headed by Saudi Arabia.
In 2014, it was reported that Israel stuck a warehouse in Sudan housing long-range missiles heading for Hamas in Gaza. Israel also carried out three airstrikes in western Sudan in 2009, on a convoy reportedly carrying weapons to Gaza, and was blamed for a 2012 explosion in a weapons plant in Khartoum, which reportedly was building weapons for Hamas.