Backlash as Sudan, Israel leaders meet

Sunday February 9 2020

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara in Entebbe, Uganda, on February 3, 2020. PM Netanyahu met Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of Sudan’s Transitional Sovereign Council. PHOTO | AFP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara in Entebbe, Uganda, on February 3, 2020. PM Netanyahu met Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of Sudan’s Transitional Sovereign Council. PHOTO | AFP 

MAWAHIB ABDALLATIF
By MAWAHIB ABDALLATIF
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Disagreements have emerged from within the ranks of Sudan’s transitional government on whether the country should normalise relations with Israel.

Last weekend, Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of Sudan’s Transitional Sovereign Council met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Entebbe, Uganda. The meeting took many observers by surprise, but both leaders said they were moving towards normalising relations that were non-existent for nearly five decades.

But the aftermath of the Entebbe meeting has been a political backlash in Khartoum, pitting the civilian representatives against military representatives of the transitional government. A section of the public also expressed its anger at the meeting and held demonstrations in Khartoum to denounce it.

Satie Al-Hajj, a leader in the Forces for Freedom and Change alliance, which forms part of the government, told The EastAfrican that Sudan will not normalise relations with Israel out of interest to safeguard humanity.

“Sudan's refusal to normalise relations with Israel is a moral and legal principle, considering that Khartoum is a signatory to the agreement of the (3 No) (Arabic Summit that was held in Sudan in 1967),” he said, referring to a document declared by the Arab League, to which Sudan is a member, that supported the cause of Palestinian self-determination.

Sudan has been one of the most hostile Arab League members towards Israel, as part of continued protests against Israel’s alleged illegal occupation of Palestinian territories, as well as prevention of the creation of a Palestinian state.

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FFC said in a statement that they had no knowledge of the Entebbe meeting, and that no one had consulted them, something they argued “is harmful and casts a negative shadow on the political situation in the country.”

Despite the public disavowing of the meeting by leaders in government, Gen al-Burhan said he had notified Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok of the Entebbe meeting two days prior and that it took place without any demands or conditions.

CO-OPERATION

On Monday, Mr Netanyahu's office said he had met with al-Burhan in Entebbe, and reportedly agreed to start co-operation to reach a full normalisation of relations.

Gen al-Burhan said on Tuesday that he met with Mr Netanyahu “from my responsibility on the importance of tireless work to maintain Sudanese national security and achieve interests supreme for the Sudanese people."

He argued that developing the relationship with Israel would remain the responsibility of the institutions concerned with the matter of national security.

But he maintained that Sudan’s position on Palestine hasn’t changed. "I affirm that Sudan's principled position on the Palestinian issue, and the right of its people to establish its independent state, has remained and will continue to be in accordance with the Arab consensus and decisions of the Arab League."

Sudan, under turmoil during the Omar al-Bashir years formed a transitional government in August 2019, seeking to stabilise the economy and chart a political way forward that should lead to fresh elections in three years.

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