Meeting of Sudanese leader, Netanyahu stirs debate in Sudan

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The Uganda meeting between Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of Sudan's transitional administration, and Netanyahu was kept secret but grabbed headlines late Monday when the Israeli leader announced the two had begun talks on normalizing relations between their countries.

The document stipulated that Arab countries, including Egypt, Jordan and Sudan, would jointly oppose Israel, stating: "No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it".

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat called Burhan's meeting with Netanyahu "a stab in the back of the Palestinian people and a flagrant walkout on the Arab peace initiative", according to a statement published by the official WAFA news agency.

"The council of ministers hasn't been notified or consulted over such a meeting, so we are waiting for clarification after the return of the chief of the Sovereign Council", the minister noted.

The Palestinians have been seeking to build unified opposition among Arab nations in opposition to the plan, with the Arab League rejecting it on Saturday.

During the 30 years of Bashir's reign, relations were more hostile, as the Sudanese government was accused of helping and hosting Palestinian resistance members, as well as assisting in the transfer of weapons to Hamas fighters in the Gaza Strip.

In recent years, Israel has improved ties with African nations, following a hard period when many post-independence African leaders sided with Israel's Arab rivals, and viewed with hostility Israel's support for apartheid South Africa.

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The United States still classifies Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism, a legacy from the rule of now ousted autocrat Omar al-Bashir who in the 1990s welcomed Osama bin Laden.

In 1983, Sudanese President Gaafar Nimeiri met with Israeli officials and agreed to transport Ethiopian Jews who had been stranded in Sudan to Israel in what would be known as Operation Moses in 1984. The Israeli operation was dramatized in a 2019 Netflix film, 'The Red Sea Diving Resort'. Others applauded, arguing it was good for Sudan's future. Some leading political activists also decried the statements, although a few voiced support.

As well as the embassy issue, Netanyahu said Israel and Uganda were exploring the possibility of having direct flights and of closer cooperation in cyber security. It comes as Netanyahu is in a fight for his political life, dogged by corruption charges and consecutive failures to form a government after back-to-back elections previous year.

Netanyahu also met Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni Monday and called for the opening of missions in each others' countries, during a visit aimed at boosting ties.

Uganda's Entebbe airport was the scene in 1976 of a dramatic rescue operation conducted by Israeli commandos to save almost 100 mostly Israeli passengers on board an Air France airliner hijacked by Palestinian and German militants.

Netanyahu last visited Uganda in July 2016 to mark the 40th anniversary of a hostage rescue at Entebbe airport, in which his brother Yonatan died.

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