US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was due to land in Sudan from Israel on Tuesday, on what he said was the first official non-stop flight between the two countries, as the United States promotes stronger Sudan-Israel ties.
His visit is part of a regional tour following an accord between Israel and the UAE this month to forge full relations, and comes as Israel and the United States push more Arab countries to follow.
“Happy to announce that we are on the FIRST official NONSTOP flight from Israel to Sudan!” Pompeo said on Twitter.
Pompeo will meet Sudan’s prime minister and the head of its ruling council during a brief stopover in Khartoum to discuss US support for the civilian-led government and for “deepening the Sudan-Israel relationship”, according to the State Department.
Sudan has been restoring its own ties with the United States following the ouster of former Islamist leader Omar al-Bashir in April 2019, and is pushing to be removed from the list of countries that Washington considers state sponsors of terrorism.
Asked if Pompeo would announce a breakthrough in Sudan like normalization of ties with Israel or a removal of US sanctions, a US official on board Pompeo’s flight said: “It’s possible that more history will be made.”
The official said Sudan had offered the direct flight, dropping the requirement “that such a flight make a cosmetic stop en route”.
Ties with Israel are a sensitive issue in Sudan, which was among the hardline Muslim foes of Israel under Bashir.
In February, ruling council head Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Uganda, but cast doubt on any rapid normalisation of relations.
Sudan announced on 19 August it had sacked its foreign ministry spokesman after he called the UAE decision to become the third Arab country to normalise relations with Israel “a brave and bold step”.