RIYADH: A normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia is in the works, a diplomatic official said Thursday night.
“The Saudis will soon ‘come out of the closet,'” the official said.
He also confirmed a report from Israel Hayom that within a few days, Sudan would launch a process of normalization.
Speaking to Israeli journalists, the official added that Sudan’s decision to recognize Israel was linked to the country being dropped from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism.
On Thursday, US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, told the Fox & Friends program that “there’s more to come” after the recent US-brokered accords between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
“I think we’re going to have some announcements soon on that front,” O’Brien said.
Official data posted on the website FlightAware said a private plane flew Wednesday from Tel Aviv to the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, where it stayed for roughly seven hours before returning to Tel Aviv.
Two senior Sudanese officials confirmed the visit. One of them, a senior military figure, said the US-Israeli delegation came to put final touches on a deal establishing ties with Israel. The delegation included Ronen Peretz, the acting director-general of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, and Brig. Gen. Miguel Correa, the senior director for Gulf Affairs on the US National Security Council, the official said.
A second official said the emerging deal would include Israeli aid and investment, particularly in technology and agriculture. The Americans and Israelis also promised to talk to allies in the Gulf and the West to bring investment and debt relief to Sudan. The visit came at a time of protests in Khartoum and elsewhere in Sudan over dire economic conditions.
High-ranking officials in Khartoum confirmed on Thursday the exclusive report about a nascent normalization deal.
According to the Sudanese official, the agreement would be signed within days, most likely in a Zoom ceremony in which Trump, Netanyahu, and head of Sudan’s Transitional Military Council Abdel Fattah al-Burhan would participate. He added that the ceremony would take place online due to the time constraints of the US presidential election.
Another Sudanese official told Israel Hayom that significant progress toward a normalization deal had taken place after a compromise was reached between al-Burhan – who, along with his supporters, back normalization with Israel – and Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok, who leads the faction of high-ranking office-holders who oppose normalization.
Hamdok’s technocratic government has so far rebuffed US advances aimed at pushing Sudan to follow the lead of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, both of which signed agreements to establish formal ties with Israel at the White House last month.
“The prime minister will proceed in the steps taken by [al-Burhan] to establish ties with Israel if the legislative council, after it is formed, approves the decision to normalize ties,” a senior source said.
Khartoum’s caution reflects concerns that such a major foreign policy move at a time of deep economic crisis could upset the delicate balance between military and civilian factions, and even put the government at risk, two senior Sudanese government sources said.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to Hamdok on Thursday.
“Secretary Pompeo applauded Prime Minister Hamdok’s efforts-to-date to improve Sudan’s relationship with Israel and expressed hope that they would continue, and underscored continuing US support for Sudan’s ongoing democratic transition,” she said.
The London-based pan-Arabic news outlet Al Araby al-Jadeed also quoted senior officials in Sudan who confirmed that a deal with Israel would be signed within days, and said that “peace is closer than ever.”
According to one senior government official in Khartoum who spoke with Israel Hayom: “The Middle East is changing, and Sudan wants to be part of the process. We have a unique opportunity to rehabilitate our society and our economy. The Palestinians are angry? They’re angry with us, when any Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon is in better shape than Sudan? The days when the Palestinian problem was dumped on Sudan are over. We are working for the future of Sudan and our children and grandchildren.”