Sudan has agreed to allow flights destined to Israel to use its airspace, a military spokesperson told Al Jazeera yesterday. This follows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s surprise meeting with President of the Sudanese Sovereignty Council, Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, in Uganda on Monday.
Reuters reported that Sudanese military spokesman Amer Mohamed Al-Hassan told Al Jazeera there had been an agreement “in principle” for commercial flights travelling from South America to Israel to use Sudan’s airspace, though he said technical aspects of the deal were still being studied and Sudan had not agreed to allow Israel’s national carrier El Al to use its airspace.
“Sudan has not announced full normalisation [with Israel], but it is exchanging interests,” he said. After news broke out of the meeting, scores of Sudanese protested outside the government’s headquarters in the capital Khartoum on Tuesday voicing their opposition to closer ties with Israel.
However, during a campaign speech yesterday Netanyahu said: “With Sudan, we are now establishing cooperative relations,” adding: “We will overfly Sudan.” Netanyahu has previously argued that the opening of Sudanese airspace to Israeli flights would cut hours off flights to South America, which is Israel’s fourth-most frequented travel destination. The African air corridor would also include Egypt which has full diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv and Chad, with which Israel renewed long-severed ties in 2018.
According to Hamodia, some Israeli commentators have suggested the rapprochement with Khartoum might enable the repatriation of thousands of Sudanese who make up around a fifth of illegal migrants and asylum-seekers in Israel. Although a senior Israeli official on Tuesday played this prospect down.
Little known fact but the Umma party were the first in Sudan to reachout to Israel in the 50's seeking their help with the US to support Sudan independence.
On the right al-Sideeg al-Mahdi (father of former PM & leader of Umma party al-Sadiq al-Mahdi). pic.twitter.com/cG0oTwtAeX
— Wasil Ali – واصل علي (@wasilalitaha) February 3, 2020
The Uganda meeting would not be the first time that Israel and Sudan have held meetings, the Umma political party were the first in Sudan to reach out to Israel in the 1950s, which included a secret meeting in London between the party’s leader Sadiq Al-Mahdi (who would become future prime minister after independence) and Israeli diplomats.