Israel Gets Flyover Right in a Corner of Sudan

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters) -

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Monday that Israeli airliners would be able to overfly Sudan en route to South America, part of Israel’s drive to improve ties with Muslim countries and isolate Iran.

Earlier on Monday, PM Netanyahu confirmed that Oman had given permission for El Al to fly over its territory on the way to India, Thailand and Hong Kong.

Speaking to a group of Israeli diplomats, Netanyahu said that “right now we can fly over Egypt, Chad, and it would appear Sudan. We are making earth-shattering advances. This is an unprecedented revolution,” the prime minister said, adding that Oman’s head of state, Sultan Qaboos Bin-Sa’id, had authorized the El Al flights over his territory.

Last month, Netanyahu and Chadian President Idriss Deby renewed relations severed by N’Djamena in 1972.

Netanyahu told a briefing of diplomats his talks with Deby had helped open up a new air corridor to South America.

“At this time, we can overfly Egypt. We can overfly Chad, that has already been set. And to all appearances, we can also overfly this corner of Sudan,” he said, pointing to a map.

Netanyahu spokesmen did not elaborate, and it was unclear when Israeli flights might be able to start overflying Sudan en route to South America, which the prime minister described as Israel’s fourth-most important air-travel destination.

There was no immediate comment from Khartoum.

Israeli diplomats say there have been low-level contacts with Sudan in recent years, though the authorities there have been reluctant to acknowledge them publicly.

Israel had seen Sudan as an Iranian ally and accused it of serving as a conduit for arms smuggling to Palestinians in Gaza. Israeli diplomats now say they believe Sudan has distanced itself from Iran.

During the visit to Yerushalayim of Chadian President Idriss Déby, Sudan denied a media report that it was considering normalizing ties with Israel.

Abdel-Sakhi Abbas, the leader of the ruling National Congress Party in Sudan, was quoted by the Turkish Anadolu Agency service as saying that his country was not on Netanyahu’s list.

Sudan’s position on normalization of ties with Israel is clear “and is fundamentally linked to the Palestinian cause,” he said.