U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stands with Sudanese Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan. (Sudanese Cabinet via AP) Sudanese Cabinet via AP
Abdel-Fattah Burhan, Mike Pompeo

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted, “Happy to announce that we are on the FIRST official NONSTOP flight from Israel to Sudan!”

By Associated Press

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Sudan on Tuesday to push for open diplomatic ties with Israel, building on momentum from the recent historic agreement to establish relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Sudan is on a fragile path to democracy after the popular uprising led the military to overthrow autocratic leader, Omar al-Bashir in April 2019. A military-civilian government now rules the country, with elections deemed possible in late 2022. It remains on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, but asked that removal not be contingent upon normalizing relations with Israel.

The transitional authorities are desperate to lift sanctions linked to its listing by the U.S. as a terror sponsor.

That would be a key step toward ending its isolation and rebuilding its battered economy, which has plunged in recent months, threatening to destabilize the political transition.

Pompeo was the first U.S. secretary of state to visit the African country since 2005, when Condoleezza Rice visited.

He also was the most senior U.S. official to visit the African country since last year’s ouster of al-Bashir.

Pompeo arrived from Israel and while he was still airborne he tweeted: “Happy to announce that we are on the FIRST official NONSTOP flight from Israel to Sudan!”

His flight was the first direct trip between Tel Aviv to the Sudanese capital Khartoum. Pompeo was in Israel on Monday on the first stop of his multi-country tour in the region. The trip follows the Aug. 13 agreement between Israel and the UAE to establish diplomatic ties.

Pompeo met Tuesday with Sudanese Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of the ruling sovereign council, and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok,

Hamdok later described his meeting with Pompeo as “great” and tweeted in English that they had a “direct & transparent conversation” about removing Sudan from the U.S. terror list, bilateral relations and the U.S. government’s support for the civilian-led transitional government in Sudan.

“I continue to look forward to positive, tangible steps in supporting the glorious Sudanese revolution,” he tweeted.

Information Minister Fasial Saleh said any decision on relations with Israel will “be decided after the completion of the transitional authority.”

He was referring to the legislative body which has yet to be formed.

A Sudanese military official said their talks focused on “the next step toward normalization and incentives that Sudan will gain.” He spoke on condition of anonymity because of he was not authorized to brief reporters.

“Great to be in Khartoum for meetings with the civilian-led transitional government. The democratic transition underway is a once in a generation opportunity for the people of Sudan. Looking forward to discussing how to deepen the U.S.-Sudan relationship,” Pompeo tweeted.

The State Department had said ahead of the tour that Pompeo would discuss “continued U.S. support for the civilian-led transitional government and express support for deepening the Sudan-Israel relationship.”

In February, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Burhan, during a trip to Uganda where they pledged to pursue normalization. The meeting was held secretly and only announced after it happened. It also paved the way for another first — two weeks after the meeting in Uganda, an Israeli aircraft made a historic first flight over Sudanese territory.

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.

A Sudanese government official told The Associated Press last week that deliberations between Sudanese and Israeli officials have been going on for months, with the help of Egypt, the UAE and the U.S.

Sudan’s former Foreign Ministry Ambassador Haidar Badawi said last week that Sudan was looking forward to making a peace deal with Israel. His comments immediately drew a pledge from Netanyahu to “do all that’s needed” to wrap up a deal. Badawi was later dismissed from his post by acting Foreign Minister Omar Qamar al-Din who claimed that his ministry had not discussed the issue of ties with Israel.

The designation of Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism dates back to the 1990s, when Sudan briefly hosted Osama bin Laden and other wanted terrorists. Sudan was also believed to have served as a pipeline for Iran to supply weapons to Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

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