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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Sudanese PM says ‘deep debate’ needed before normalisation with Israel

Abdulla Hamdok said the normalisation issue was 'complicated' [Getty]

Date of publication: 27 September, 2020

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Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has said that a deep debate was needed within society before any normalisation deal was signed with Israel, amid US pressure regarding the issue

Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has said that normalising ties with Israel was a "complicated" issue needing wide debate within society, media reported on Sunday.

Earlier this month, Israel signed US-brokered deals to normalise ties with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

The administration of US President Donald Trump wants Sudan to follow suit, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Khartoum in August to push a deal.

Sudan's economy is in crisis, partly due to sanctions imposed because it is on a US blacklist as an alleged state sponsor of terrorism.

On Saturday, Hamdok was questioned by reporters on the two issues of lifting US sanctions and normalising ties with Washington's ally Israel.

Read more: Despite US pressure, Sudan's cost-benefit analysis puts normalising ties with Israel on hold, for now

Public opinion is generally unsupportive of normalisation.

"We spoke with the US Secretary of State and told him 'let us separate the two tracks,'" Hamdok said, speaking on the sidelines of an economic conference in Khartoum.

"We hope for success in this matter," he added.

Sudan has been technically at war with Israel for decades.

Hamdok heads a transitional government, which came to power a year ago after longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir was ousted, bringing together old rivals into a fragile coalition.

Removing Sudan from the US blacklist is a priority for the government, but while some leaders are in favour of a political deal with Israel, many are opposed.

Any deal with Israel potentially risks undermining Sudan's fragile political unity.

"This is an issue that has many other complications," Hamdok said. "It requires a deep discussion within our society."

Sudan has been on the US blacklist since 1993 because of Bashir's support for jihadists, including Osama bin Laden, who lived in the country for several years in the 1990s before heading to Afghanistan.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of the transitional sovereign council, told Saturday's conference there was an "opportunity" for change.

"We have the opportunity ... to remove Sudan from the state sponsor of terrorism list, and achieve integration within the global community," Burhan said.

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