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Sudan FM says country has no intention of normalizing ties with Israel

Sudan's Foreign Minister Eldirdiri Mohamed Ahmed addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018.
AP Photo/Richard Drew
Statement comes as president Bashir returns from first visit by Arab leader to Syrian pariah Bashar al-Assad.

The foreign minister of Sudan, Eldirdiri Mohamed Ahmed, said in a debate in parliament on Tuesday that the country had no intention of normalizing ties with Israel, Kann reported. 

Ahmed said that the government's position on the Palestinian issue and Jerusalem was firm, according the Israeli public broadcaster.

The day before, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boasted that the Jewish State was in the process of normalizing ties with Arab states.

Speaking at a conference for Israeli diplomats in Jerusalem, he said that Israel is in "a process of normalization with the Arab world without progress in the diplomatic process with the Palestinians".

"Arab states are looking for links with the strong," he added, as the leader pursues an unprecedented push for diplomatic relations in both Africa and the Gulf.

Netanyahu is taking credit from warming relations with Muslim-majority states in the last two months, including Sudan's neighbor and regional rival Chad.

However, Ahmed's statement could be seen to distance the Arab League member from this trend, and put an end to rumors that Sudan is getting closer to Israel.  

Amit Shabi/Ynet; AFP

The declaration comes after it was reported last month that a secret meeting was held between Israeli and Sudanese officials, apparently aiming to open relations between the two countries.

They reportedly also discussed "potential Israeli aid to Sudan in the fields of medicine, agriculture and the economy."

The country has been trying to change its image as an oil-rich supporter of global terrorism, and closer ties with Israel would definitely curry favors with Washington.

Sudan's economy is in dire straits because of a host of sanctions imposed by the United States and others, mostly due to the civil war in Darfur.

However, Khartoum cannot alienate its current allies, including other Arab League members.

The Sudanese leader, Omar al-Bashir, who came to power in Khartoum in a coup in 1989, is wanted on indictment by the International Criminal Court for war crimes allegedly committed by Sudanese forces on its own population in the region of Darfur.


Bashir became the first Arab head of state to visit Syria's president al-Assad over the weekend since the Arab League suspended Syria's membership in 2011. 

He was aparently flown in and out of Damascus by a Russian air force vessel, according to observers. 

Israel and Sudan have never had any official diplomatic relations, and Israel has long been wary of the predominantly Sunni Muslim nation’s ties to Iran -- the Middle East's Shia powerhouse.

Sudan has in the past assisted Israel's enemies, having for years hosted a Hamas command center and a factory for long-range rockets for Palestinian militants, serving as a base for smuggling weapons into Gaza.

But in early 2017, Sudan -- long one of Iran’s few Sunni Arab allies -- severed ties with Tehran following its execution of a prominent Saudi Shia cleric. The move was reportedly welcomed by Israel at the time as "in coherence with Israeli interests".


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