Sep 23, 2020 - World

U.S.-Sudan talks on normalization with Israel end without breakthrough

Burhan (R) with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month in Khartoum. Photo: Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Negotiations in Abu Dhabi between the U.S. and Sudan have ended without a breakthrough on Sudanese recognition of Israel, sources briefed on the talks tell me.

The big picture: Sudan is trying to re-engage with the world economically as it transitions from the dictatorship of Omar al-Bashir, and needs U.S. sanctions relief to do so. The U.S., meanwhile, has pushed Sudan to become the latest Arab country to normalize relations with Israel. The talks in Abu Dhabi, first reported by Axios, were the most substantive to date on that topic.

Behind the scenes: The UAE hosted the talks, mediated between the parties, and was ready to contribute financial aid to Sudan in order to reach a deal. The Sudanese asked for an immediate aid package of 3 billion dollars and a commitment for more aid in the future.

  • After three days of negotiations, there were still gaps between the parties in terms of the aid Sudan could expect from the U.S. and UAE in return for normalizing relations with Israel.

What he is saying: The chairman of Sudan’s ruling council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, confirmed for the first time that the talks in Abu Dhabi dealt with a possible normalization agreement with Israel.

  • Returning to Khartoum after leading the Sudanese delegation, he said in a statement that the talks were "useful and constructive,” but not whether further talks were expected.
  • He added that he discussed with the U.S. delegation “the future of the Arab-Israeli peace process and the role Sudan can play in achieving peace in the region."
  • He also said he told the U.S. delegation that any peace process in the region must respect Palestinian rights — mainly an independent state.
  • Al-Burhan said the talks largely focused Sudan's potential removal from the State Department’s State Sponsors of Terrorism list, a designation which has severely constrained Sudan's economy.
  • He said he also asked the U.S. to cancel its ban on participation of Sudanese citizens in the Green Card lottery.

What to watch: Burhan, who represents the military faction of Sudan's transitional government, believes normalization with Israel will help Sudan get out of the economic and humanitarian crisis it's facing, Sudanese sources tell me.

  • But the civilian faction, including Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, worries that the move will lead to unrest domestically.
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