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Deal to normalise ties with Israel stirs opposition in Sudan

By Reuters | October 25th 2020
 Sudan's new Prime Minister in the transitional government Abdalla Hamdok, speaks during a Reuters interview in Khartoum, Sudan August 24, 2019. [File, Reuters, Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah]

Prominent political factions in Sudan have rejected a deal brokered with the help of the United States to take steps to normalise ties with Israel.

The agreement was sealed on Friday in a call between U.S. President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Sudanese transitional leaders.

It would make Sudan the third Arab country to set aside hostilities with Israel this year, though some Sudanese officials have said it should be approved by a yet-to-be formed transitional parliament.

The issue is sensitive in Sudan, formerly a hardliner critic of Israel, dividing opinion among military and civilian leaders heading a transition after former President Omar al-Bashir was toppled following months of protests in April 2019.

The government has said establishing ties with Israel should be treated separately from Sudan’s removal from the U.S. state sponsors of terrorism list, a move U.S. President Donald Trump said would proceed days before announcing the deal on normalisation.

Sudan, mired in economic crisis, was offered help with debt relief, food security and economic development in the statement announcing normalisation.

Among those criticising the deal was the National Consensus Forces Alliance, a leftist coalition and key component of the Freedom and Change (FFC) alliance that emerged from the uprising against Bashir.

“The transitional power intentionally violates the constitutional document and makes steps towards normalisation with the Zionist entity, breaking with the principles and commitments of Sudan’s Three Nos,” it said in a statement.

The “Three Nos” refers to a commitment made in Khartoum by Arab states in 1967 to “no recognition of Israel, no peace with Israel and no negotiations with Israel”.

The Popular Congress Party, an Islamist faction that backed Bashir, also condemned the move. On Thursday, veteran opposition leader Sadiq al-Mahdi threatened to pull the support of his Umma Party from the government if it went ahead with the move.

Some Sudanese say they could accept normalisation if it is in Sudan’s economic interests, and there have been no street protests against the deal. Others object.

“Sudan must support Palestine, and this is a position of principle and religion,” said Ahmed Al-Nour, a 36-year-old teacher.

Cartoonist Khalid Albaih depicted a Sudanese protester being trampled by Trump and Netanyahu, reflecting a view widely shared on social media that the deal ran counter to revolutionary aims and was made without public consultation.

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