JERUSALEM (AP) — Senior Israeli and Sudanese officials held a rare public meeting on Wednesday, pledging to strengthen the nascent ties between the former adversaries, the Israeli participants said.
The meeting between Sudan's justice minister, Nasredeen Abdulbari, and Israeli Cabinet ministers Idan Roll and Edawi Frej took place in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
The UAE was the first of four Arab countries to sign historic diplomatic pacts with Israel last year.
While Israel has since opened embassies and diplomatic missions in the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco, ties with Sudan have been murky and clouded in secrecy.
A Sudanese security delegation recently visited Israel, a Sudanese military official said. But the trip was not made public at the time. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.
Both Roll and Frej posted photos of themselves with Abdulbari on Twitter. Roll serves as Israel's deputy foreign minister, while Frej, an Arab lawmaker, is the minister for regional cooperation.
Roll said the sides agreed on future cooperation. “Our goal is to join hands in technological training in order to help young people of all sides" enter the modern labor market. “We also spoke about the importance of normalizing the relations between both countries,” he added.
“The 2 agreed promoting joint projects & activities,” Frej said and quoted Abdulbari as saying it was important to “strengthen human bonds.”
Sudan was once one of Israel's fiercest rivals in the Arab world.
It hosted the landmark Arab conference after the 1967 Mideast war where eight Arab countries vowed never to make peace with Israel. In 1993, the U.S. designated Sudan a state sponsor of terrorism. Sudan also once served as a conduit for arms shipped to Palestinian militants.
As part of its deal with Israel, Sudan was removed from the U.S. list of terrorism sponsors, paving the way for the African country to reintegrate into the international community after two decades of isolation.
Sudan is on a fragile path to democracy since the military's ouster of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir amid a popular uprising against his nearly three-decade-long rule. The country is now ruled by an interim, joint civilian-military government.
Associated Press writer Samy Magdy contributed reporting from Rome.