US President Donald Trump has spoken with the leaders of Israel and Sudan as the two countries announced their plan to normalise relations, adding that he expected the Palestinians and other nations to also agree to closer ties in coming months.
In a telephone call with Trump held in front of reporters at the White House, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also welcomed what he called a rapidly expanding circle of peace.
As part of the agreement, Trump took steps to remove Sudan from a US government list of countries promoting terrorism. A senior US 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.
Earlier this week Israel said it is close to normalising its relations with Sudan as a delegation visited Khartoum following the Jewish state's US-brokered deals with UAE and Bahrain.
''[Israel is] very close to normalising ties with Sudan,'' the Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen said in an interview with the Israeli Channel 13.
Following a trend
Sudan followed a path begun by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in striking deals aimed at normalising relations with Israel.
The US president also said that he is sure Saudi Arabia will be in the mix soon.
The agreement was negotiated on the US 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 said. "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 the 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."
'New stab in the back'
Wasel Abu Youssef, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization lamented the news for Palestinians.
“Sudan’s joining others who normalised 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,” Abu Youssef said.
Speaking in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, Abu Youssef said the African state’s decision to follow Gulf Arab states the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain “will not shake the Palestinians’ faith in their cause and in continuing their struggle.”
In Gaza, Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesperson of the group Hamas, a traditional ally of Sudan, said Sudan’s move was a step in the “wrong direction.”
“Sudan joining other countries in normalising ties with the Israeli occupation will encourage the Zionist enemy to commit more crimes and more violations against the Palestinian people,” said Barhoum.