Trump says 'five more' Arab nations want to normalise ties with Israel

Trump says 'five more' Arab nations want to normalise ties with Israel
The US president did not name which five countries were interested in normalising ties with Israel after the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan agreed to the controversial move.
4 min read
Normalisation deals with Israel have been subject to fierce protests across the Arab world [Getty]

At least five more Arab nations want relations with Israel, US President Donald Trump claimed on Friday after Sudan became the latest country in the region to agree to normalise ties with the Jewish state.

"We have at least five that want to come in," Trump told reporters in the White House as he held a three-way phone conversation with the prime ministers of Israel and Sudan.

Saudi Arabia is expected to make the move, the president said on Friday.

Oman and Saudi Arabia have previously been speculated to be warm to the idea of normalising ties with Israel.

The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed an accord at the White House last month to normalise relations with Israel but Sudan is arguably more significant as an Arab nation that has been at war with Israel.

Trump announced the agreement by Sudan's year-old civilian-backed government moments after he formally moved to end the nation's designation of a state sponsor of terrorism, which was a major goal for Khartoum.

"We are expanding their circle of peace so rapidly with your leadership," Netanyahu was heard saying on Friday's conference call.

As part of the deal to get off the terror blacklist, the White House said that Sudan's transitional government had deposited $335 million to compensate survivors and family members of anti-US attacks that took place when former dictator Omar al-Bashir welcomed Al-Qaeda.

"Today represents a momentous step forward in the United States-Sudan bilateral relationship and marks a pivotal turning point for Sudan," a White House statement said.

The deal with Sudan allows "for a new future of collaboration and support for its ongoing and historic democratic transition," it said.

Normalisation with Israel is a highly controversial topic across the Arab world, not least in Sudan where a meeting between Burhan and Netanyahu earlier this year prompted angry protests.

Political factions including the opposition Umma Party have also condemned building diplomatic ties with Israel, which was declared imperssible in Islam by a government-linked Islamic body this month.

Sudan's civilian prime minister, Abdulla Hamdok, thanked Trump on Twitter without mentioning recognition of Israel - a step he had earlier said he was not empowered to take.

"We're working closely with the US administration & Congress to conclude the SSTL removal process in a timely manner," Hamdok said, referring to the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

In Khartoum, a government source said that the call involved Trump, Hamdok, Netanyahu and Sudan's top general, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

A senior Palestinian Liberation Organization official has described Sudan's decision as a "new stab in the back" for the Palestinians.
“Sudan’s joining others who normalized ties with the state of the Israeli occupation represents a new stab in the back of the Palestinian people and a betrayal of the just Palestinian cause,” said PLO member Wasel Abu Youssef.

'Historic move'

Trump had announced his plan to delist Sudan on Monday through Twitter. But in the days before he formally took the move, Israel sent a delegation to Khartoum to discuss normalisation.

[Click to enlarge]

Trump, who is trailing in the polls ahead of the November 3 vote, has used his leverage over Sudan to press for recognition of Israel.

Sudan played a small part in Arab-Israeli wars and, after Israel's decisive victory in 1967, Khartoum was where the Arab League issued its famous "three no's" - no peace, no recognition and no negotiations with Israel.

Sudan has been seeking for years to remove the designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, which severely impedes investment as few foreign businesses want to risk the wrath of US prosecution.

With Trump's formal move, Congress has 45 days in which it can pass a resolution to object to the delisting.

Congress is not expected to block the delisting but it must also approve legislation to grant Sudan immunity from further claims.

Until then, the $335 million will be held in an escrow account.

The money includes compensation to survivors and family members of those killed in Al-Qaeda's twin attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

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