Sudan denies it gave in to US 'blackmail' over Israel

AFP , Tuesday 27 Oct 2020

"We were not blackmailed over normalisation," General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said

Sudanese Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan
Sudanese Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan speaks during a military-backed rally in Omdurman district, west of Khartoum, Sudan, Saturday, June 29, 2019. (AP)

Sudan did not give in to US "blackmail" when it agreed to normalise relations with Israel, the African nation's top general, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, said on Monday.

The White House's announcement on Friday of the normalisation of relations between Sudan and Israel came as Washington said it was removing Khartoum from a state sponsors of terrorism "blacklist".

Sudan had long sought to be removed from the list, and its demands grew after autocratic president Omar al-Bashir was ousted in 2019.

"We were not blackmailed over normalisation," Burhan said in an interview on state television.

But the general conceded the US had been one of the "catalysts for the decision" to normalise ties with Israel.

On Sunday, the Sudanese foreign ministry said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had demanded normalisation with Israel with a view to removing Khartoum from the terror list during his visit to the Sudanese capital in August.

Burhan said "reconciliation" was "in the interest of Sudan".

"We are isolated and have suffered from sanctions," he said.

"The removal of our name from the list... will allow us to return to the international community. We will benefit economically and get technology," he said.

In addition, the diplomatic breakthrough would "release aid" to implement the inter-Sudanese peace agreement signed on October 3, he added, referring to a separate landmark deal that brought in several Sudanese rebel factions from the cold.

Critics in Sudan have accused the authorities of betraying the "pan-Arab cause" and the Palestinians by agreeing to normalisation with the Jewish state.

"We all want a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders... but we do not want to make Sudan bear full responsibility for it," the general said.

Burhan denied rumours of pressure from the United Arab Emirates, which along with Bahrain normalised relations with Israel in recent weeks.

On Sunday, Sudan said there would be a joint meeting with Israel "in the coming weeks, to discuss and conclude cooperation agreements in the fields of agriculture, trade, economy, aviation, migration and other issues".

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Jewish state was sending $5 million worth of wheat to Sudan, as it grapples with renewed protests over shortages of staples.

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