The meeting took place between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the chairman of Sudan’s ruling council, at the residence of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in the city of Entebbe on Monday.
It was only made public when Netanyahu claimed in a tweet, “We agreed to begin cooperation that will lead to the normalization of relations… History!”
Netanyahu’s office later released a statement, saying the premier believes Sudan “is moving in a new and positive direction,” and that he had expressed this point to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Burhan, it added, “is interested in helping his country go through a modernization process by removing it from isolation and placing it on the world map.”
Separately, a senior Israeli official was quoted by The Times of Israel as saying that the two-hour-long talks between Netanyahu and Burhan “serves as the beginning of a process of bilateral cooperation leading to normalization.”
However, Sudan’s information minister and government spokesman said he was not informed of the meeting and had received its news “through the media.”
“We, the members of the cabinet, were not notified or consulted about this meeting. We are waiting for the chief of the sovereign council to return and give clarification about this,” Faisal Mohamed Salih said in a statement.
A senior Sudanese military official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Times of Israel that the Netanyahu-Burhan meeting had been orchestrated by the UAE and that only a “small circle” of top officials in Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt knew about it.
Burhan, he added, agreed to meet Netanyahu because officials thought it would help “accelerate” the process of being removed from the US terror list.
Reports coming out of Sudan indicate that news of the unannounced meeting has sparked public anger in the Arab country, which has been the scene of popular protests against the power grab by the military-controlled transitional government following the ouster of long-time president, Omar al-Bashir, in April 2019.
Several political factions and activist groups in the Muslim country — where anti-Israel sentiments run high — have also condemned the secret meeting, Iran’s IRNA news agency reported.
‘A stab in Palestine’s back’
The meeting infuriated main Palestinian factions in the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank, namely Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
Hazem Qassem, spokesman for the Hamas resistance movement, denounced the meeting between the Israeli prime minister and Sudan’s ruling council chief, saying it is “encouraging the (Israeli) occupation to carry on with its crimes and aggression against the Palestinian people.”
Moreover, Saeb Erekat, the PLO secretary general, condemned the Netanyahu-Burhan meeting as a “stab in the back.”
“This meeting is a stab in the back of the Palestinian people and a blatant departure from the Arab Peace Initiative at a time when the administration of [US] President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu are trying to liquidate the Palestinian cause,” he said in a statement carried by WAFA news agency.
Additionally on Monday, Netanyahu held talks with Museveni and said in a news conference afterwards that Israel would open an embassy in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, if the African country established one in occupied Jerusalem al-Quds.
“There are two things we very much want to achieve. One is direct flight from Israel to Uganda. And second … you open an embassy in Jerusalem (al-Quds), I’ll open an embassy in Kampala,” he said.
The Ugandan president responded by saying his government was “studying” the matter.
Erekat also criticized Uganda’s decision to consider opening a diplomatic mission in Jerusalem al-Quds, calling on the African Union members states to respect the decisions of its summits regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of international resolutions.
The meeting follows the unveiling last week of US President Donald Trump’s pro-Israel Middle East deal, which all Palestinian groups have rejected.