Sudan fires FM spokesman after comments on peace with Israel

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Sudan on Wednesday fired the spokesman for the foreign ministry, a day after he remarked that the African country was looking forward to making a peace deal with Israel.

The development comes after last week’s bombshell announcement of a deal between the United Arab Emirates and Israel to normalize relations, which will make the UAE only the third Arab nation, after Egypt and Jordan, to have full ties with Israel.

Sudan’s acting Foreign Minister Omar Qamar al-Din said he dismissed Ambassador Haidar Badawi from his post after Badawi said Tuesday that Sudan was “looking forward to concluding a peace agreement with Israel.”

“There is no reason to continue hostility between Sudan and Israel,” Badawi was quoted as saying by Sky News Arabia. “We don’t deny that there are communications” with Israel, he added, saying both countries would gain much from a deal.

Badawi’s remarks immediately drew a pledge from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “do all that’s needed” to wrap up a deal.

Qamar al-Din, the foreign minister, sought to distance himself from Badawi’s comments, saying they were received “with astonishment.” He insisted his ministry had not discussed the issue of ties with Israel.

In February, Netanyahu met with met Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of Sudan’s transitional government, during a secret trip to Uganda, where both leaders pledged to pursue normalization of ties.

“President Burhan put Sudan on the right track with his meeting with the Israeli prime minister,” Badawi said.

Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen told Israeli news site Ynet in an interview that he believes the talks with Sudan will lead to a peace deal.

“There is communication between the two states and I believe that it will develop into the advancement of an agreement between the countries. But we need to look, we need to wait. Is it right for Israel and Sudan? The answer is yes,” he said.

A Sudanese government official told The Associated Press on Tuesday that deliberations between Sudanese and Israeli officials have been going on for months, with help from Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

“It’s a matter of time. We are finalizing everything,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters. “The Emirati move encouraged us and helped calm some voices within the government who were afraid of backlash from the Sudanese public.”

An Israeli deal with Sudan would mark another setback for the Palestinians, who have long counted on the Arab world to press Israel to make concessions to them as a condition for normalization. That wall of Arab support had long served as one of the Palestinians’ few points of leverage against Israel.

Sudan, a majority Arab nation, hosted the landmark Arab conference after the 1967 Mideast war where eight Arab countries approved the “three no’s”: no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel and no negotiations.

But in recent years those hostilities have softened.

Sudan is now on a fragile path to democracy after a popular uprising led the military to overthrow former autocratic President Omar al-Bashir in April 2019. A military-civilian government rules the country, with elections deemed possible in late 2022.

At the time of the Burhan-Netanyahu meeting, the Sudanese military said the talks with Israel were an effort to help end Sudan’s status as an international pariah state.

Sudan is desperate to lift sanctions linked to its listing by the U.S. as a state sponsor of terror. That would be a key step toward ending its isolation and rebuilding its battered economy. The U.S. and Israel are staunch allies.

The designation dates back to the 1990s, when Sudan briefly hosted Osama bin Laden and other wanted militants. Sudan was also believed to have served as a pipeline for Iran to supply weapons to Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. Israel was thought to have been behind airstrikes in Sudan that destroyed a convoy in 2009 and a weapons factory in 2012.