For the first time, an Israeli plane has flown through the Sudanese airspace, Ynet News reported Sunday.
The plane had first taken off last Monday from Israel’s Tel Aviv for Congo’s capital city of Kinshasa, passing through Egypt’s Suez Canal, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, spending a total of seven hours in the air. However, the same plane returned back at Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion airport through Central African Republic, Sudan and Egypt, spending only five hours and a half.
The move comes following a recent meeting between the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the President of Sudan’s Sovereignty Council, Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, in Uganda, where the agreed on allowing flights from and to Israel to use the Sudanese airspace.
“My meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was held without conditions and in coordination with the United States,” Burhan told reporters after the meeting, stressing that the joint talks between the two countries would “stop if there were no real results from both sides.”
“The picture for Sudan changed a lot after I met with Netanyahu,” the Sudanese leader said.
Israeli planes used to fly over Sudan in the past, with a condition that they had to stop in the Jordanian capital of Amman or another destination so that the flight would not be registered as Israeli. Last week’s plane did not have an Israeli license number, but it landed in Tel Aviv.
Israel’s relations with Arab countries have been strained for years over the latter’s decades-long occupation on Palestine. There has been never been any official relations between Israel and Arab countries, except for Egypt and Jordan, both of which are tied with two peace treaties with Israel.
The meeting also came amid escalated tensions between Israel and the Arab and Islamic world following the recently-released US Middle East peace plan.
The so-called “Deal of the Century” was also rejected by the United Nations (UN). It said the deal was not based along with UN guidelines but is an imposition of the American president Donald Trump’s own vision of a two-state solution. The deal was also condemned by all Palestinian parties.
Burhan: Israel to help remove Sudan from US blacklist
General Abdul Fattah Al-Burhan has reportedly announced that Israel is to play a key role in removing his country’s name from the US blacklist.
In an interview with the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Al-Burhan disclosed that his meeting with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, held earlier this month in Uganda came: “Within the framework of Sudan’s efforts for its national and security interests.”
He divulged that a third party had arranged the meeting, stating that during the meeting he stressed on the Israeli role in supporting Sudan’s efforts to be removed from the US blacklist of the countries sponsoring terror.
Al-Burhan also noted that they agreed to form a committee to discuss advancing mutual relations, pointing out that the executive side of the transitional council would carry out the future diplomatic relations as soon as they were agreed upon.
The general claimed that normalizing ties with Israel is widely accepted among the Sudanese and that only: “Limited ideological groups oppose it.”
He also uncovered that he had been waiting for completion of procedures ahead of visiting the US and meeting President Donald Trump.
Al-Burhan emphasized that the big challenges ahead of his country during the transitional stage are ending wars, achieving peace and then solving the economic and livelihood crises.
Sudan closing Hamas, Hezbollah offices to rebuild US ties
In an attempt to re-establish ties with the US and to lift sanctions imposed on it, Sudan also reportedly decided in December 2019 to shut the offices of the Hamas and Hezbollah resistance movements in the country, according to a source cited by Middle East Eye.
The decision followed Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok’s visit to Washington earlier in the month. Hamdok became the first leader of Sudan to visit America since 1985 and he held talks aimed at bridging the relationship between the two states after years of sanctions and international isolation, especially with Sudan being placed on the US list of states sponsors of terrorism after hosting former Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the nineties.
Post-revolutionary Sudan witnessed the ousting of long-term President Omar Al-Bashir who is currently serving a two-year sentence on charges of corruption, and the inauguration of the country’s first civilian prime minister in three decades. Hamdok has argued for the necessity of Sudan being removed from the US’ blacklist citing the need to improve the economic situation, which is edging towards hyperinflation leaving Sudan among the countries with the highest inflation in the world. The economic crisis is primarily what brought protestors out onto the streets last year. Addressing the UN General Assembly in September, Hamdok said that the revolution aimed at ending Sudan’s pariah status, reiterating that Sudan inherited international sanctions and that “it was the former regime that supported terrorism”, not Sudan’s people.
The Sudanese source who spoke to Middle East Eye said: “The government will close the offices of Hamas and Hezbollah and any other Islamic groups designated as terrorist groups that has presence in Sudan, because Sudan has nothing actually to do with these groups and the interests of Sudan are above everything.”
However, the office closures are likely symbolic in nature, said Cameron Hudson, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council Africa Centre, given that operations of both organizations have been dormant in the country for years. “The announcement that they are formally closing the offices suggests to me that they were essentially dormant, although not formally closed,” he said.
Nevertheless, the move is interpreted by some as a gradual alignment of Khartoum with the interests of the US and its regional allies. In 2016 Sudan ended diplomatic ties with Iran in the wake of the attacks by protestors on the Saudi embassy in Tehran which was in response to the execution of the Saudi Shia cleric and activist Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr.
Two months prior to the severing of ties with Tehran, Sudan reportedly received $2.2 billion for taking part in the Saudi and UAE-led coalition in Yemen, although Sudan is now scaling back its military involvement in the conflict.
Israel for its part had accused Sudan of channeling arms from Iran to Hamas in the Gaza Strip via Egypt’s Sinai desert and is alleged to have bombed Sudanese munitions warehouses and factories in the past.
Sudan has also sought Qatar’s support in its efforts to be removed from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, which it expressed at a reception hosted by Qatar’s Ambassador to Khartoum, ahead of Qatar’s National Day.