Sudanese PM Ready for Israel Ties if Parliament Approves, Sources Say

Sudan’s fragile interim government is sharply divided over a deal with Israel, as it finds itself under intense pressure from the Trump administration

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo greeting Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok in Khartoum, August 25, 2020.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo greeting Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok in Khartoum, August 25, 2020.Credit: Office of Sudan's Prime Minister/AFP
Noa Landau

Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok is ready to proceed with normalizing relations with Israel once a yet-to-be-formed transitional parliament has approved the step, two Sudanese government sources told Reuters on Thursday.

The comments are the clearest sign that Hamdok, under pressure from the United States, is willing to contemplate Sudan establishing ties with former adversary Israel.

Such a move would not be imminent, because the council still needs to be established under a power sharing deal between the military officers and civilians who have been running Sudan jointly since the overthrow of autocrat Omar al-Bashir in 2019.

It is unclear when the assembly will be formed.

There was no immediate response from the government to requests for comment.

Also on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo applauded Hamdok’s efforts to improve Sudan’s relationship with Israel, and the two welcomed President Trump’s commitment to move forward with rescission of Sudan’s State Sponsor of Terrorism designation, a monumental step forward in the bilateral relationship, according to Morgan Ortagus, the U.S. State Department's spokesperson. 

Israeli representatives visited Sudan on Wednesday ahead of Khartoum's declaration of normalization of ties with Israel. On board the private flight from Tel Aviv to Khartoum were interim deputy director-general at the Prime Minister's Office, Ronen Peretz, and the National Security Council's envoy to the Arab world. They were accompanied by the U.S. State Department's senior director for Gulf affairs and North Africa, Miguel Correa, and Aryeh Lightstone, an adviser to U.S. Ambassor to Israel David Friedman. They returned a few hours later. 

In contrast, military figures leading Sudan's political transition have appeared open to normalising ties, although civilian groups including left-wing and Islamist politicians are more reluctant.

"The prime minister will proceed in the steps taken by Transitional Council Head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan to establish ties with Israel if the legislative council, after it is formed, approves the decision to normalise ties," a senior source said.

Khartoum's caution reflects concerns that such a major foreign policy move at a time of deep economic crisis could upset the delicate balance between military and civilian factions, and even put the government at risk, two senior Sudanese government sources said.

Also Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington had begun the process of removing Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism and is also working "diligently" to get Khartoum to recognize Israel.

Hamdok's technocratic government has so far rebuffed U.S. advances aimed at pushing Sudan to follow the lead of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, both of which signed agreements to establish formal ties with Israel at the White House last month.

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