Pompeo in Sudan visit pushes normalizing ties with Israel

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a joint statement to the press with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after their meeting, in Jerusalem, Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. (Debbie Hill/Pool via AP)
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a joint statement to the press with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after their meeting, in Jerusalem, Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. (Debbie Hill/Pool via AP) (UPI)

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

The Sudanese transitional government said, however, that it does not have a mandate to establish diplomatic ties with Israel. It called on the Trump administration to not make the removal of Sudan from a U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism contingent upon normalizing relations with Israel.

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 possible in late 2022.

The transitional authorities are desperate to have sanctions lifted that are 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 is the first U.S. secretary of state to visit the African country since 2005, when Condoleezza Rice visited. He also is 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,