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  • The agreement could pave the way for Netanyahu to deport Sudanese who make up around one-fifth of undocumented workers in Israel.

    The agreement could pave the way for Netanyahu to deport Sudanese who make up around one-fifth of undocumented workers in Israel. | Photo: Reuters

Published 3 February 2020

Normalizing their relations would be a historic step for both countries and could boost Netanyahu’s diplomatic credentials a month before Israel’s election.

Israel and Sudan have agreed to work towards the normalization of their relations for the first time, Israeli officials announced Monday after the leaders of the two countries met in Uganda.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held talks with the chairman of Sudan’s sovereign council Abdel-Fattah Burhan in the city of Entebbe in central Uganda.

"We agreed to begin cooperation that will lead to the normalization of relations between the two countries," Netanyahu tweeted. 

Israel previously considered Sudan a security threat due to Iran’s suspected use of the country as a conduit for sending munitions to Gaza.

But since Sudanese longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir was ousted last year, Khartoum has taken distances from Iran and no longer poses such a threat, Israeli officials say.

The agreement between the two former foes could, in addition, pave the way for Netanyahu to deport Sudanese who make up around one-fifth of undocumented workers in Israel, a move backed by many of his supporters.

These migrants argue they cannot be repatriated to Sudan where they can face punishment for traveling to Israel, an enemy country.

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Arab states had met in 1967 in Sudan to issue what became known as the “Three No’s” - no recognition of Israel, no peace with Israel and no negotiations with Israel.

Normalizing relations would be a historic step for both countries and could boost Netanyahu’s diplomatic credentials a month before the country’s March 2 election.

The question of normalizing ties with Israel has been contentious in the Arab world.

Since the U.S. recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017 and following its recent declaration that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are not illegal under international law, the issue became more controversial, generally marking a split between the peoples in the Arab world and their leaders.

Netanyahu said after the meeting that he believed Sudan was moving in a "new and positive direction" and that he had made this point to United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

On Sunday, the U.S. invited Burhan to visit Washington, Sudan’s sovereign council said.

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