Israeli PM meets top Sudan leader in Uganda

KAMPALA, Uganda — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday he has met with Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of Sudan's sovereign council, and that they have begun the process of normalization.

“We agreed to begin cooperation that will lead to normalization of relations between the two countries,” Netanyahu tweeted. “History!”

In recent years Netanyahu has pushed to improve ties with African countries that have long had cool relations with Israel over the conflict with the Palestinians. Sudan is keen to escape the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism as it struggles to rebuild its economy following the popular uprising that toppled Omar al-Bashir last year.

Netanyahu arrived in Uganda on Monday, saying his country is ”returning to Africa in a big way" and urging the East African country to open an embassy in Jerusalem.

Before departing Israel, Netanyahu spoke of “very important diplomatic, economic and security ties that will yet be told about." He said that at the end of his visit to the East African nation he hopes to “have very good news” for Israel.

The Israeli leader was welcomed by Uganda's prime minister at the international airport in Entebbe, where Netanyahu's brother Yonatan was fatally struck by a bullet as he led Israeli commandos in a daring mission to rescue hijacked Israeli passengers in 1976. Israel's success in the raid humiliated then-Ugandan President Idi Amin, under whose rule Israel closed its embassy in Uganda.

Netanyahu, who was accompanied by his wife Sara, held a meeting with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and other officials. In a news conference later on Monday Netanyahu said he would open an embassy in Kampala, the Ugandan capital, if Museveni established one in Jerusalem. The Ugandan leader responded by saying his government is “studying" the matter.

Museveni has repeatedly said Uganda supports a two-state solution to the Palestinian issue. During Netanyahu's trip to Uganda in 2016, Museveni urged both sides to live “side by side in two states ... in peace and with recognized borders.”

According to U.S. President Donald Trump's Mideast peace plan announced last week, Jerusalem is envisaged as Israel's undivided capital.

But the Palestinians see the West Bank as the heartland of a future independent state and east Jerusalem as their capital. Most of the international community supports their position, but Trump has reversed decades of U.S. foreign policy by siding more clearly with Israel.

Israel has long courted African support. In exchange for its expertise in security and other fields, Israel wants African states to side with it at the U.N. General Assembly, which overwhelmingly recognized Palestine as a non-member observer state in 2012.

Reports in Israel in recent years have suggested it might normalize diplomatic relations with several Muslim countries in Africa. Israel renewed diplomatic relations with Guinea in 2016. After Netanyahu visited Chad for a renewal of ties in 2019, it was reported that Israel was working to formalize ties with Sudan.

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