Donald Trump has announced that Sudan and Israel have made “peace”, claiming a foreign-policy success just days before the US election.
The US president made the remarks in front of reporters at the Oval Office on Friday as he signed an executive order to remove Sudan from a US list of state sponsors of terrorism — which many had seen as a precursor to the normalisation of relations with Israel.
Abdalla Hamdok, Sudanese prime minister, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Sudanese chairman of the sovereignty council, and Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli prime minister, “agreed to the normalisation of relations between Sudan and Israel and to end the state of belligerence between their nations”, according to a statement by the three countries released by the White House.
Officials have spent weeks seeking to pressure Khartoum into normalising ties with Israel as Mr Trump tries to secure foreign policy victories ahead of imminent US election, with him trailing his rival Democratic rival Joe Biden in the polls. The White House has in recent months brokered a series of bilateral deals in the Middle East, with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain agreeing to normalise ties with Israel.
“This will be the third country where we’re doing this — and we have many, many more coming. We have, they’re coming at us hot and heavy in the coming weeks,” Mr Trump said on Friday.
“This is an incredible deal for Israel and Sudan. For decades Sudan has been at a state of war with Israel — they have been in a state of war and boycotted Israeli goods, there was no relationship whatsoever,” he said.
“This is a new era — an era of true peace,” Mr Netanyahu said in a pre-recorded message announcing the opening of Sudanese airspace to Israeli flights. “A peace that is expanding with other Arab countries — three of them in recent weeks.”
Mr Hamdok has yet to comment on Israel.
Earlier on Friday Mr Trump had notified Congress of his intent to rescind Sudan’s terror designation, adding Khartoum had made a monetary transfer for victims of terror attacks on Thursday.
Cash-strapped Sudan, which is seeking to emerge from decades of dictatorship under a transitional hybrid civilian-military government, had hesitated about normalising relations with Israel for months in an effort to extract greater financial support from the US and Gulf partners, two people in the US familiar with the matter said. The UAE has hosted Sudanese officials in recent weeks for talks.
Israel’s relationship with Sudan has been difficult since the Arab nation sent soldiers to fight in the 1948 war that birthed Israel. The US put Sudan on the list of state sponsors in 1993 when Omar al-Bashir’s regime was hosting Osama bin Laden in Khartoum. As recently as 2012, Israel was blamed by Sudan for bombing a weapons factory in Yarmouk and a 2009 convoy, while Sudan’s ties with Iran were seen by Israel as a means for Hamas, in the Gaza Strip, to receive arms from Iranian militias.
In a statement, the Palestine Liberation Organization called Sudan’s step “another stab in the back”.
One year after the revolution that toppled Mr Bashir, the economic crisis has added to pressure on Sudan’s government to reach a deal with the US. Khartoum hopes that any deal will result in the release of billions of dollars of aid and will allow it to write off $60bn in past debts. The statement said the US would seek to secure debt forgiveness for Sudan, while Israel would also help the Sudanese with “tapping into their economic potential”.
It said the two countries would begin economic and trade relations, with imminent talks initially focused on agriculture. It added that both the US and Israel “agreed to partner with Sudan in its new start and ensure that it is fully integrated into the international community”.
“I thank President Trump for signing today the executive order to remove Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism,” Mr Hamdok tweeted on Friday, without mentioning Israel.
On Friday, Israel said it dropped its objection to the US selling F-35 fighter jets to UAE, a long sought victory for the Gulf country.