Cohen: Israel in contact with Sudan, refugee return to be part of deal

Cohen also clarified that any peace deal would include a mechanism for the return of Sudanese migrants.

Israel and Sudan are in contact, Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen told Channel 12 on Wednesday, just after Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Haider Badawi Sadiq was fired for speaking to the international media about normalization efforts by both countries.
“There are contacts with Sudan,” Cohen said.
“Six months ago, the Prime Minister held a historic meeting with the ruler of Sudan,” said Cohen referencing the face-to-face conversation that took place in Uganda in February between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Sudanese leader Lt.-Gen. Abdel Fatah Abdeirahman al-Burhan, who chairs the country’ Sovereignty Council. The two men spoke of normalized ties.
That meeting came in the aftermath of other public statements by Sudanese officials in support of peace with Israel.
Cohen said it was a positive sign that Sadiq had stated there was no reason for hostility between the two countries.
He also clarified that any peace deal would include a mechanism for the return of Sudanese migrants. At present there are 6,285 Sudanese asylum seekers and migrants in Israel.
Sudan’s state news agency SUNA reported on Sadiq’s dismissal after he raised hopes that Sudan and Israel were on track for a peace deal, telling Reuters and Sky News Arabia that his country desires peace with Israel.
In comments Sadiq made to Reuters he lauded Israel’s burgeoning ties with the United Arab Emirates, calling it a “brave and bold step and contributes to putting the Arab world on the right track to build peace in the region and to build sustainable peace.” He added, “I cannot deny that there are contacts between Sudan and Israel.”
But hours later Sudan’s Foreign Minister Omar Qamar al-Din Ismail, noted in statement published by SUNA that, “the issue of relations with Israel was not discussed in the Foreign Affairs Ministry in any way, and Ambassador Haidar Badawi [Sadiq] was not assigned to make any statements in this regard.”
Sadiq’s words came in the aftermath of last week’s dramatic announcement that the US had brokered a peace deal between the UAE and Israel.
Cohen tweeted that he believed the UAE was just the first and that other countries, like Sudan would follow.
A peace agreement between Sudan and Israel is in the common interest of the two countries, and the historic meeting between Netanyahu and al-Burhan laid the foundations for upgrading relations between the two countries.
“At the end of the day, the head of state will make the final determination and the only thing we can do is to wait until that final determination is made,” said former Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold.
In the past, Gold said, he has opposed the idea of peace with Sudan because of former president Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir’s genocidal actions against those in the Darfur region of his country.
“The state of Israel was born in the shadow of the Holocaust that is not the kind of issue you can be cavalier about,” he said.
Once Bashir was removed from power in 2019, that created a new situation for Israel, said Gold who is the President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
But clearly the events of the last 24 hours, was akin to going to “the kitchen and finding that the cake was not done.”
The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, said it was premature for Israel to talk about returning the Sudanese given that massacres and killings were still occurring in the country.
“Optimistic quotes about normalization talks and contacts won’t succeed in covering up the horrific devastation that the regime in Sudan continues to inflict on its own citizens.
At the head of Sudan today are the same generals who carried out the genocide and ethnic cleansing,” the hotline said, adding that these were the same men, from “whom the Sudanese asylum seekers fled to Israel.”
Reuters contributed to this report.