Israel Delegation to Sudan Talks Agriculture, Health Care Cooperation

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters) -

Israel sent a first delegation to Sudan on Monday to discuss potential economic and humanitarian cooperation after the countries announced a U.S.-brokered agreement on Oct 23 to take steps toward establishing relations, a source said.

The talks focused on how Israel might shore up Sudan’s agriculture, food security, water supplies and health care, the source, who declined to be identified by name or nationality, told Reuters.

The Israeli delegates also met separately with representatives of the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, the source said.

Israeli and Sudanese officials had no immediate comment. Nor did the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.

Aviation data posted by Haaretz newspaper showed that a chartered Turkish plane made a rare Tel Aviv-Khartoum return flight on Monday.

Interviewed by Army Radio last week, Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen (Likud) said the initial delegation to Sudan would be followed within weeks by a larger “economic delegation” – raising the prospect of a possible signing of cooperation deals.

The source familiar with Monday’s mission said those talks did not touch on the prospect of a more comprehensive peace treaty between Israel and Sudan.

Sudan followed the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in becoming the third Arab government to engage Israel with the encouragement of Washington, which sees such contacts as helping to isolate Iran and sidestep stalled Palestinian statehood talks.

But the military and civilian echelons of the transitional Sudanese government have been divided over how quickly and how far to go towards normalizing relations with Israel.

The Israelis’ Sudanese interlocutors on Monday included “a range of figures” from the Khartoum leadership, the source said.

A group of Israeli and U.S. envoys flew to Khartoum on Oct. 21 to finalize the terms of the normalization announcement made by the countries’ leaders and U.S. President Donald Trump two days later.