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Abu Dhabi meeting could lead to Israeli-Sudanese normalisation: Report

Sudan delegation will also request Washington remove Khartoum from its state sponsors of terror list
Sudan's ruling council said its head, General Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan, pictured, and Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari would be in the delegation (AFP)

US, Emirati and Sudanese officials will hold a decisive meeting in Abu Dhabi on Monday on a possible normalisation agreement between Sudan and Israel, Sudanese sources have told Axios.

According to the US news website, Sudanese sources have said the government of Sudan would ask for economic aid in return for such a deal.

The request will include more than $3bn in humanitarian assistance and direct budgetary aid in order to deal with an economic crisis and fallout from devastating floods, as well as a commitment by the US and the UAE to providing Sudan with economic aid over the next three years, Axios said.

Sudan's ruling council had said on Sunday that its officials would discuss the removal of their country from a US list of state sponsors of terror with officials from Washington during the visit.

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Sudan's transitional government, in charge since the toppling of Omar al-Bashir last year, has been pushing to get off the US list, which hinders its ability to access foreign loans to tackle Sudan's economic crisis.

In August, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo raised the issue of Sudan establishing ties with Israel during a visit to Khartoum.

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok had told Pompeo that he had no mandate to do so.

The UAE, a key partner of the US, and Bahrain have normalised ties with Israel in deals brokered by Washington, the first Arab states in a quarter of a century to break a longstanding taboo. US President Donald Trump has said he expects other Arab countries to follow suit.

Ties with Israel are a sensitive issue in Sudan, which was among the strongest foes of Israel under Bashir.

Sudanese authorities under pressure

On Sunday, the ruling council had said its head, General Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan, and Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari would be in the delegation that had flown to Abu Dhabi that day, where they would first meet UAE officials to discuss regional issues.

Afterwards, Abdubari would meet US officials present in the UAE to discuss the "removal of [the] name of Sudan from the list of states sponsoring terrorism, support of the transitional period and writing off American debts on Sudan".

Sudanese authorities are under pressure to fix the economic crisis, which has worsened since Bashir's downfall. Inflation hit almost 170 percent last month, the currency has been in freefall and the government has declared an economic state of emergency.

In February, Burhan met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Uganda, a meeting condemned by Sudanese protesters. He afterwards cast doubt on any rapid normalisation of relations, though Israeli aircraft soon began overflying Sudan.

Burhan represents the military faction of the government. The civilian faction and Hamdok have had reservations about normalisation for a long time over concerns about how it would be received domestically.

However, Sudanese sources told Axios that in recent days Hamdok was convinced that normalisation would serve Sudan’s interests and gave Burhan permission to move forward if Khartoum's requests for economic aid are met.