By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Israel and Sudan agreed on Friday to normalize relations in a deal brokered with the help of the United States, making Sudan the third Arab country to set aside hostilities with Israel in the past two months.
U.S. President Donald Trump, seeking re-election on Nov. 3, sealed the agreement in a phone call on Friday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Transitional Council Head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, senior U.S. officials said.
As part of the agreement, Trump took steps to remove Sudan from a U.S. government list of countries promoting terrorism. A senior U.S. official said Trump signed a document on Air Force One on Thursday night to notify Congress of his intention to remove Sudan from the list.
"The leaders agreed to the normalization of relations between Sudan and Israel and to end the state of belligerence between their nations," according to a joint statement issued by the three countries.
Sudan followed a path begun by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in striking deals aimed at normalizing relations with Israel.
The agreement was negotiated on the U.S. side by Trump senior adviser Jared Kushner, Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz, national security adviser Robert O’Brien, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security official Miguel Correa.
"This is obviously a great breakthrough," Kushner told Reuters. "This is obviously going to create a big breakthrough peace between Israel and Sudan. Getting peace agreements done are not as easy as we are making them look right now. They are very hard to do."
A signing ceremony was expected to be held at the White House in coming weeks, the officials said.
The joint statement said the leaders agreed to begin economic and trade relations, with an initial focus on agriculture.
Delegations from each country will meet in the following weeks to negotiate agreements of cooperation in those areas as well as in agriculture technology, aviation, migration issues and other areas, the statement said.
The statement said Sudan’s transitional government has "demonstrated its courage and commitment to combating terrorism, building its democratic institutions, and improving its relations with its neighbors."
As a result, "the United States and Israel agreed to partner with Sudan in its new start and ensure that it is fully integrated into the international community," the statement said.
Kushner called the normalization deals the start of a "paradigm shift" in the Middle East. He said Sudan’s decision was symbolically significant because it was in Khartoum in 1967 that the Arab League decided not to recognize Israel’s right to exist.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Howard Goller)