Sudan Casts Doubt on Early Normalization of Ties with Israel

KHARTOUM (Reuters) -

Sudan cast doubt on Tuesday on an early normalization of historically hostile ties with Israel, a day after Israeli officials said the two countries’ leaders had met and were working toward that goal.

Sudan’s cabinet on Tuesday discussed that meeting, which it said it had not been informed of beforehand. It also summoned leaders of the Forces for Freedom and Change, an alliance that fronted protests that toppled Omar al-Bashir last year, for consultations, FFC sources said.

Bilateral relations have never been normalized, and doing so would likely raise hackles in Sudan and the wider Arab world, especially at a time when Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is promoting a new U.S. peace plan rejected by Palestinians.

But Sudan is also anxious to rebuild links with the outside world after decades of isolation under Omar al-Bashir, and to be removed from a U.S. list of countries considered state sponsors of terrorism.

Israeli officials said on Monday that Netanyahu had met Sudan sovereign council head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan for two hours in Uganda.

Sudan’s government spokesman said officials were waiting for “clarifications” on Burhan’s return.

Burhan is the most senior figure in the first phase of a power-sharing arrangement between the military and civilian parties that began last August, following Bashir’s overthrow.

The U.S. listing has impeded badly needed international financial assistance and commercial activity in Sudan.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo thanked Burhan by phone “for his leadership in normalizing ties with Israel,” his spokesperson said on Monday, and Washington has invited Burhan to visit later this year.