Sudanese Prime Miniser Abdalla Hamdok has told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that his government had no mandate to normalise ties with Israel, and that any such move would be decided after the transitional period, according to a spokesman.
The transitional government, which took power last year after former longtime leader Omar al-Bashir was overthrown by the army following mass protests, is set to remain in office until elections in 2022.
During Tuesday’s talks in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, Hamdok “clarified” to Pompeo that the country’s transitional period “is being led by a wide alliance with a specific agenda – to complete the transition, achieve peace and stability in the country and hold free elections” government spokesman Faisal Saleh said in a statement.
It “does not have a mandate beyond these tasks or to decide on normalisation with Israel,” Hamdok was quoted as saying.
The comments came shortly after Pompeo arrived in Khartoum on Tuesday, less than two weeks after Israel and the United Arab Emirates said they would normalise ties in a US-backed deal.
His visit was meant to discuss relations between Sudan and Israel and also show US support for the country’s fragile transition to democracy. Pompeo was on Israel on Monday, the first stop in a regional tour as part of a drive to convince more Arab countries to normalise ties with the Jewish state.
Following the talks, the US State Department said in a statement that Pompeo and Hamdok discussed “positive developments in the Sudan-Israel relationship”.
Happy to announce that we are on the FIRST official NONSTOP flight from Israel to Sudan! pic.twitter.com/eOXNsBAozC
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) August 25, 2020
Pompeo was the first US secretary of state to visit Sudan since Condoleezza Rice in 2005.
Hamdok urged the US not to link “the subject of lifting Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list and the subject of normalisation with Israel,” as Pompeo was also scheduled to discuss the removal of Sudan from the list.
The US designated Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1993, cutting it off from financial markets and strangling its economy over allegations that al-Bashir’s government was supporting “terrorism”.
The designation makes the country ineligible for much-needed debt relief and funding from international institutions, and limits potential foreign investment.
Washington lifted a 20-year trade embargo against Sudan in 2017 and was holding discussions on de-listing Khartoum when the military stepped in on April 11 to depose al-Bashir, who ruled for 30 years. Subsequently, the administration of US President Donald Trump suspended talks demanding the military hand power to a civilian government.
After months of deadlock following al-Bashir’s overthrow, the ruling military and protest leaders agreed on a joint body to oversee a three-year transition that would pave the way for elections. The civilian-dominated sovereign council appointed Hamdok in August last year to lead the transitional administration.
Ahead of the tour, the State Department had said Pompeo would discuss “continued US support for the civilian-led transitional government and express support for deepening the Sudan-Israel relationship.
Israel remains technically at war with Sudan and has no formal diplomatic relations with it.
Speaking in Jerusalem on Monday, Pompeo and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said they were hopeful that other Arab states would follow suit – in part to boost an alliance against their common arch foe Iran.
The US-sponsored deal between Israel and the UAE was denounced by the Palestinians as a “betrayal” of their cause.
It was only the third such accord Israel has struck with an Arab country, after Egypt and Jordan.
The two new partners have since said they want to promote trade, especially the sale of Emirati oil to Israel and Israeli technology to the UAE, as well as boosting tourism by establishing direct air links.
Pompeo will also visit Bahrain and the UAE, according to a State Department statement. Officials said stops in Oman and Qatar are also possible.