By Hossam Badawi
Sudanese government officials and opposition figures both continue to reject the notion of normalized ties with the self-proclaimed Jewish state.
On Wednesday, the Sudanese government denied reports of a “secret meeting” in Turkey last year between Israeli and Sudanese officials.
Israel’s Channel 10 had earlier claimed that Israeli Foreign Ministry personnel had secretly met with Sudanese intelligence officials in Istanbul to gage the prospects for establishing diplomatic relations.
Sudanese officials also deny recent media reports suggesting that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning a visit to Khartoum.
Reports of a possible visit by Netanyahu emerged earlier this week shortly after Chadian President Idriss Deby arrived in Israel for his first-ever visit.
A senior Israeli official told Channel 10 at the time that Deby’s visit was intended to lay the groundwork for the normalization of ties between Israel and the Muslim-majority African states of Sudan, Mali and Niger.
Khartoum does not currently maintain diplomatic relations with Israel, while Sudanese public opinion overwhelmingly supports the ongoing Palestinian struggle for statehood.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Al-Amin Abdel-Razeq, secretary-general of Sudan’s ruling Popular Congress Party, said the country’s recent national dialogue initiative had featured proposals to “open channels of communication” with the Israeli government.
“These proposals were discussed,” Abdel-Razeq said, “but were ultimately rejected by Sudanese political groups, which reiterated their longstanding refusal to accept normalized ties with Israel.”
Since then, he added, no Sudanese parties or groups had voiced any support for the notion of normalization.
Sati al-Haj, a leading member of Sudan’s Nasserite Party, said that recent reports in Israeli media suggesting a thaw in Israel-Sudan relations were no more than “test balloons” intended to gage Sudan’s reaction.
“We still consider this [i.e., normalization with Israel] a red line,” al-Haj told Anadolu Agency.
He added: “All Sudanese political forces are aware of Israel’s colonial ambitions and its efforts to break up countries of the region with a view to permanently destroying the [Palestinian national] cause.”
Hassan Osman Rizk, an MP for Sudan’s Reform Now movement, for his part, told Anadolu Agency: “These Israeli media reports are merely aimed at sowing confusion.”
“As members of parliament, we plan to look into these assertions and allegations,” he said. “We have no information about ‘secret contacts’ between the Sudanese government and any other party.”
The recent Israeli media reports, Rizk added, “are intended to cause internal disturbances [inside Sudan], especially when we are passing through a critical period and are in a state of relative economic weakness”.
He also warned against the assumption “that the removal of Sudan from Washington’s list of state sponsors of terrorism is somehow contingent upon Sudan’s opening up to Tel Aviv”.
In October of last year, the U.S. administration lifted economic sanctions imposed on Khartoum since 1997. Washington, however, has yet to remove Sudan from its list of countries accused of supporting terrorism.
As it currently stands, Egypt and Jordan are the only Arab League member-states to maintain formal relations with Israel.