CAIRO — An Israeli delegation headed by the country’s intelligence minister quietly visited Sudan and met with the African nation’s leaders, officials from both countries said Tuesday.
The visit on Monday was the first visit by an Israeli minister to Sudan less than three weeks after Khartoum inked an agreement to normalize ties with Israel.
Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen, head of the Israeli delegation, met with Sudanese Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the ruling sovereign council, Defence Minister Yassin Ibrahim and other military and government officials.
Sudan became the third Arab state to normalize ties with Israel under the Trump administration last year as part of a U.S.-brokered deal known as the “Abraham Accords.”
Sudanese officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the visit with media, said the Israeli delegation discussed “steps” to move forward in the ties between the two nations. They did not elaborate.
Cohen’s office confirmed the visit, saying it was the first official visit by an Israeli minister to Sudan.
Arye Shalicar, an Israeli government official who took part in delegation, said the atmosphere was “very friendly” and that the two sides discussed water, aviation, transportation, health, and technology co-operation, as well as security and strategic affairs.
“It demonstrates their will to advance peace with us, to normalize relations,” he said.
Sudan is on a fragile path to democracy after a popular uprising led the military to overthrow longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir in April 2019. The county is now ruled by a joint military and civilian government that seeks better ties with Washington and the West.
The “Abraham Accords” are named after the biblical patriarch revered by Muslims and Jews. Khartoum signed the deal on Jan. 6 during a visit to the country by then-U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Ahead of the announcement by former President Donald Trump last October, a senior U.S.-Israeli delegation visited Sudan to put final touches on the normalization deal.
The Trump administration also announced diplomatic pacts last year between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain — the first since Jordan recognized Israel in the 1990s and Egypt in the 1970s. Morocco also established diplomatic ties with Israel.
The agreements are all with countries that are geographically distant from Israel and have played a minor role, if any, in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Although Sudan is not a regional powerhouse, establishing ties with Israel is deeply symbolic. Sudan hosted the 1967 Khartoum summit where Arab countries vowed never to make peace with Israel, and more recently had close ties with Israeli enemies like Hamas and Hezbollah.
Associated Press writer Ilan Ben Zion in Jerusalem contributed to this report.
Samy Magdy, The Associated Press