A surprise meeting between Sudan's leader and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stirred controversy in Sudan on Tuesday, with the government saying it wasn't notified ahead of time and critics lambasting the talks on social media.
Others said the meeting would improve Sudan's standing with the United States and help Khartoum shed its pariah image. For Israel, it was a major diplomatic breakthrough with an Arab African state, two days after the Arab League rejected President Donald Trump's Mideast plan.
A senior Sudanese military official said the meeting was orchestrated by the United Arab Emirates and aimed at helping remove Sudan's terror listing in the United States, which dates back to the 1990s, when Sudan briefly hosted Osama bin Laden and other wanted militants.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of Sudan’s transitional government, agreed to meet Netanyahu because officials thought it would help “accelerate” the process of being removed from the terror list. He said only a “small circle” of top officials in Sudan, as well as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, knew about the meeting.
Last week, the UAE's foreign minister posted an article on Twitter that urged the Palestinians not to reject the Trump administration's plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace. Abdullah bin Zayed's stance led Palestinian sources to believe that Netanyahu's trip to Uganda would include a covert meeting with Emirati leaders.
The UAE was one of three Arab countries that sent an ambassador to the unveiling of the plan at the White House, along with Oman and Bahrain. These countries have forged quiet relationships in recent years with Israel, driven primarily by a shared animosity toward Iran. Recently, Israel's Foreign Ministry announced that it will participate in the World Expo 2020 in Dubai. However, Israel's foreign minister eventually did not attend, as the event was shortly preceded by the assassination of the head of Iran's Quds Force Qassem Soleimani.
Compared with Saudi Arabia, the UAE has been more open to allowing Israelis into its country, whether for international forums, covert diplomatic meetings, or business trips. In July, Israel's Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz attended an international climate summit in the UAE. In 2018, Israel's Sports and Culture Minister Miri Regev visited the UAE for a judo tournament.