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Sudan protesters reject normalisation with Israel following Burhan-Netanyahu meeting

Protesters rejected the secret meeting with the Israeli PM [Twitter]

Date of publication: 8 February, 2020

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Sudanese demonstrators in Khartoum on Friday took to the streets to denounce a recent secret meeting between the country's military head of the ruling sovereign council and the Israeli PM.
Hundreds of Sudanese protesters gathered in the capital Khartoum on Friday to denounce what was described as "normalisation with the Zionist entity", after damning reports revealed a secret meeting between  the country's military head of state and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"No, no, no Burhan, we do not recognise this entity," protesters chanted in unification during the post-Friday prayers rally in the capital, referring to General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, who heads Sudan's ruling sovereign council.

The demonstrations were just the latest in a series of public anger over reports of the previously unannounced talks in Entebbe on Monday that appeared to signal an end to Sudan's long-standing boycott of Israel.

Soon after their meeting, Netanyahu announced that the two leaders had agreed to cooperate towards normalising ties.

Read more: Sudan's rapprochement with Israel exposes weakness of democratic transition

Sudanese military spokesman Amer Mohamed al-Hassan told Al-Jazeera on Wednesday that there was an agreement "in principle" for commercial aircraft travelling from South America to Israel to use Sudan's airspace.

He said that technical aspects of the overflights were being studied and Sudan had not agreed to flights by Israel's national carrier El Al.

Netanyahu has previously expressed interest in opening Sudanese airspace as it would cut hours off flight times from Israel to South America, the fourth most popular destination for Israelis.

Sudan's transitional cabinet said on Thursday that meeting Netanyahu was Burhan's "personal initiative" and he had made no promises to the Israeli premier.

"The chief of the sovereign council told us... he did not give any commitment and did not talk of normalising relations," government spokesman Faisal Mohamed Salih told reporters early on Thursday.

"He did not give a promise of normalising or having diplomatic relations."

Salih said the issue of relations with Israel was something the current transitional government was not mandated to decide.

"This government has a very limited mandate. The issue of relations with Israel is beyond its mandate," he said.

The transitional government headed by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was formed months after the ouster of longtime despot Omar Al-Bashir amid nationwide protests in April last year.

Burhan heads the ruling sovereign council, a joint civilian and military body tasked with overseeing the country's transition to civilian rule.

Sudanese top brass have backed Burhan's initiative in holding the meeting, saying it will help boost national security. The cabinet says it was not informed of the meeting in advance.

Read more: Power and politics: Israel makes new inroads into Africa

In 2018, Israel renewed long-severed ties with Chad, who together with Egypt and Sudan form an African air corridor for flights.

"With Sudan we are now establishing cooperative relations," Netanyahu said in a campaign speech on Wednesday. "We will overfly Sudan."

Sudan has long been part of a decades-old Arab boycott of Israel over its treatment of Palestinians and its occupation of Arab lands.

In the wake of the Six-Day War of 1967 in which Israel occupied the Palestinian territories and seized the Golan Heights from Syria, Arab leaders held a historic meeting in Khartoum to announce what became known as the 'three nos' - no peace, no recognition, no negotiations with Israel.

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