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Updated Feb 6, 2020

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with the head of Sudan’s Transitional Military Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, in Uganda on February 3 to agree to start normalizing ties between the two countries. Netanyahu was in Uganda for a one-day visit, and al-Burhan traveled to the country specifically for the meeting, which lasted more than two hours. 

The announcement coincides with similar efforts by Israel to normalize relations with other Muslim-majority African countries, including Mali and Niger. Officials anticipate that Israeli aircraft may now be allowed to fly over Sudanese airspace. 

Associates of Netanyahu also believe deportation policies regarding Sudanese refugees was discussed in the meeting. The UN estimates that about 7,000 Sudanese live in Israel, 4,500 of whom are from “crisis areas.” Due to international pressure, Israel relented on a deportation policy for Eritreans seeking asylum in Israel, but may be less lenient with Sudanese, as the biggest hurdle to repatriating them was a lack of formal diplomatic ties between Sudan and Israel. 

Netanyahu’s visit to Uganda included a dialogue with President Yoweri Museveni, after which he announced direct flights would take place between Tel Aviv and Kampala.

At the same meeting, the Israeli PM suggested that if Uganda opened an embassy in Jerusalem, Israel would open one in Kampala. Since US president Donald Trump’s declaration in 2017 that Jerusalem is the “undivided capital of Israel”, a move that incensed Palestinians who wish to have East Jerusalem as their capital in a potential two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, countries have considered relocating their embassies to Jerusalem over the traditional option of Tel Aviv to curry favor with Netanyahu’s Likud government.

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