By Khalid Abdelaziz
KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok told U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday that he was not mandated to normalise ties with Israel and the issue should not be linked to Sudan’s removal from a U.S. state sponsors of terrorism lisT
Pompeo arrived from Israel on what he said was the first official non-stop flight between the two countries, as the United States promotes stronger Sudan-Israel ties.
He met Hamdok and ruling council head Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, tweeting that Sudan’s democratic transition was a “once in a generation opportunity”.
The United States has been restoring relations with Sudan following the ousting of former Islamist leader Omar al-Bashir in 2019 after mass protests. The country is one year into a 39-month political transition in which the military and civilians are sharing power.
Its economy is in crisis and authorities have been pushing to end the U.S. terrorism listing, which prevents Sudan from accessing financing from international lenders.
Pompeo’s visit follows an accord between Israel and the UAE this month to forge full relations, and comes as Israel and the United States push more Arab countries to follow.
In February, Burhan met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Uganda, a meeting condemned by Sudanese protesters. He afterwards cast doubt on any rapid normalisation of relations, though Israeli aircraft soon began overflying Sudan.
Ties with Israel are a sensitive issue in Sudan, which was among the hardline Muslim foes of Israel under Bashir. The government sacked its foreign ministry spokesman last week after he called the UAE decision to normalise relations with Israel “a brave and bold step”.
Hamdok told Pompeo that the transitional government “does not have a mandate … to decide on normalisation with Israel” and the matter would be decided after Sudan’s transitional bodies were formed, according to government spokesman Faisal Saleh.
A legislative body to serve alongside the ruling council and the government is yet to be formed.
“The Prime Minister called on the U.S. administration to separate the process of removing Sudan from the list of states sponsoring terrorism and the issue of normalization with Israel,” Saleh said.
Washington sanctioned Sudan over its alleged support for militant groups and the civil war in Darfur. Trade sanctions were lifted in 2017.
Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz, Dan Williams, Nadine Awadalla and Omar Fahmy; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Alison Williams, Nick Macfie and Giles Elgood