The vice president of the sovereign council that governs Sudan, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, has announced his country will continue to strive towards building relations with Israel.
Speaking to a local television channel Sudania 24 on Friday night, Dagalo, also known as Hemeti, said establishing relations with Israel will fulfil a promise by the United States to remove Sudan from its list of countries sponsoring terrorism.
The Sudanese official said the North African nation supports the Palestinian leaders’ efforts to establish a state of their own, but stressed he was also seeking ways to benefit his country, which has been experiencing an economic crisis.
Dagalo is a controversial figure who enjoys the backing of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the latter of which normalised relations with Israel in August. Last month, the UAE along with Bahrain signed US-brokered agreements to normalise relations with Israel.
Dagalo headed the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, which was accused of violently dispersing anti-government protests last June.
The sovereign council took the reins of the country last August, months after former President Omar al-Bashir was removed from power following mass protests against the country’s dire economic situation.
“We need Israel,” Dagalo said. “It is a developed country and Sudan will benefit from its advanced capabilities in the technical and agricultural sector.”
“Whether we like it or not, relations with Israel are tied to removing Sudan from the US list of states sponsoring terrorism,” he continued, adding that seeking relations was not the same as “normalisation”.
Dagalo’s comments come a week after Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said Sudan did not want to link its removal from the US “terrorism” list with the normalisation of relations with Israel.
Sudan’s designation as a “state sponsor of terrorism” dates back to its toppled ruler al-Bashir, and makes it difficult for its new transitional government to access urgently needed debt relief and foreign financing.
Earlier on Friday, Dagalo tweeted he had met the US envoy to Sudan, Donald Booth, in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, and received a promise from him to remove Sudan from its list of countries sponsoring terrorism as soon as possible.
On October 6, 2017, the administration of US President Donald Trump lifted economic sanctions and a trade embargo that had been imposed on Sudan since 1997.
However, it did not remove Sudan from the terrorist list it had been on since 1993 for hosting the late leader of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, who later moved his base to Afghanistan.
Political parties urge Israeli normalisation
Last Wednesday, several Sudanese political forces called on authorities to accept a US offer to normalise relations with Israel in exchange for removing the country from the US list.
In a joint press conference in the capital, Khartoum, the National Umma Party, Sudan Liberation Movement and Eastern Front called on Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, chairman of the transitional Sudan Sovereign Council, to accept the US offer to normalise Sudanese-Israeli relations.
“The American proposal is limited to the upcoming US presidential elections and we shouldn’t miss this historic opportunity,” said Mubarak al-Fadel, head of the Umma party.
He added: “After announcement of the results of the US presidential elections, we will enter into a major crisis in Sudan if we don’t agree to the offer made in the Emirates.
“Sudan will not be removed from the terrorism list for many years if we don’t take advantage of the existing opportunity,” al-Fadel said.