An Israeli delegation visited Sudan to discuss normalising relations following the Jewish state’s US-brokered deals with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, news reports said on Thursday.
The one-day return trip heightened speculation Israel could soon strike a peace deal with the Arab-led African country, with which it is technically at war.
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A chartered plane left Tel Aviv for the Sudanese capital on Wednesday, according to the specialised air traffic website Flightradar24. Sources in Sudan and Israel confirmed the visit to AFP news agency.
“A joint American-Israeli delegation visited Khartoum yesterday” and met with Sovereign Council President General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan for talks on a normalisation of ties between Sudan and Israel, a Sudanese government source said.
Israeli sources, requesting anonymity, also confirmed the trip.
Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok is ready to proceed with normalising relations with Israel once a yet-to-be-formed transitional parliament has approved the step, two Sudanese government sources told Reuters news agency.
The comments are the clearest sign that Hamdok, under pressure from the United States, is willing to contemplate Sudan establishing ties with former adversary Israel.
Such a move would not be imminent, because the council still needs to be established under a power-sharing deal between the military officers and civilians who have been running Sudan jointly since the overthrow of Omar al-Bashir in 2019. It is unclear when the assembly will be formed.
There was no immediate response from the government to requests for comment.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday he hoped Sudan would “quickly” recognise Israel.
That call came after US President Donald Trump pledged on Monday to soon take Sudan off the US state sponsors of “terrorism” blacklist, a legacy of the al-Bashir era.
Israel’s top-selling daily, Yedioth Ahronoth, reported Sudan’s post-al-Bashir transitional joint civilian and military government had internally agreed to normalise ties.
“According to reports that have been received in Jerusalem, the leadership in Khartoum has made a decision in principle to that effect,” the newspaper said.
It reported an agreement was reached between al-Burhan and Hamdok, who had been opposed until now to normalising relations with Israel.
The newspaper mentioned a possible announcement by Trump “in the coming days” from Washington with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and al-Burhan to join by video conference.
Netanyahu and al-Burhan in February held a landmark meeting in Uganda.
Israeli intelligence minister Eli Cohen was also quoted in local media as saying Israel was “very close to normalising ties with Sudan” in comments his foreign affairs adviser Arye Shalicar confirmed.
Sudan experienced an historic shift last year as al-Bashir was overthrown in April in the face of youth-led street protests, and it is now turning the page on decades as an international pariah.
It has launched a series of reforms, put al-Bashir on trial and is cooperating with the International Criminal Court to try him over his regime’s scorched earth campaign in the Darfur region.
Sudan is one of four nations branded by Washington as a state sponsor of terrorism, along with Iran, North Korea and Syria, severely impeding access to loans, foreign investment and debt relief.