Sudan leader briefs ruling body over talks with Israeli PM

AFP , Tuesday 4 Feb 2020

A grab from a broadcast on Sudan TV on April 13, 2019 shows Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan Abdulrahman, new chief of Sudan's ruling military council, in the capital Khartoum (Photo: AFP)

Sudan's leader Tuesday briefed the country's ruling body after the Israeli prime minister said the two had discussed normalising bilateral ties, a move which surprised the Sudanese cabinet.

On Monday, Benjamin Netanyahu's office said he had met General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, chairman of Sudan's ruling sovereign council, in the Ugandan city of Entebbe in a previously unannounced meeting.

Israel remains technically at war with Sudan, which for years supported hardline Islamist forces.

The statement from Netanyahu's office said the two men had "agreed to start cooperation leading to normalisation of the relationship between the two countries".

Sudan's cabinet said it had been unaware of such talks and convened Tuesday to discuss the issue.

Sudan's sovereign council, a transitional body of civilians and military officials led by Burhan, also held a meeting on Tuesday where the issue was being discussed, a source told AFP.

The source said Burhan, who had now returned from Entebbe, was briefing the council about his meeting with Netanyahu.

Netanyahu's office said on Monday that he believed Sudan is headed "in a new positive direction" and that he had expressed this view to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

"Burhan is eager to help his country modernise by taking it out of isolation and putting it on the world's map," it said.

The Uganda meeting came after Sudan said Pompeo had invited Burhan to Washington for an official visit, the first such invitation to a Sudan ruler in more than three decades.

The United States still classifies Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism, a legacy from the rule of now ousted autocrat Omar al-Bashir who in the 1990s welcomed Osama bin Laden.

Late on Monday, Sudan's government spokesman Faisal Mohamed Salih said the cabinet had only learned of the meeting at Entebbe through the media.

"We, the members of the cabinet, were not notified or consulted about this meeting," Salih said in a statement.

Sudan under Bashir was part of the decades-long Arab boycott of Israel over the Jewish state's treatment of the Palestinians.

The Palestinian leadership denounced the Sudanese general's talks with Netanyahu.

"This meeting is a stab in the back of the Palestinian people... at a time when the administration of President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu are trying to liquidate the Palestinian cause," Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said in a statement carried on official news agency WAFA.

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