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Sudan And Israel Agree To Normalize Relations In Deal Brokered By White House

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The U.S. has helped broker a deal for Israel and Sudan to normalize ties. It is now the third Arab country to do so under the Trump administration. As NPR's Eyder Peralta reports, for Sudan, it's a delicate move.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: The press corps came into the Oval Office yesterday while President Trump was still on the phone with the leaders of Israel and Sudan. Trump then made a sweeping pronouncement.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The state of Israel and the Republic of Sudan have agreed to make peace.

PERALTA: For decades, Sudan has been an Islamist state. In the '90s, it was home to Osama bin Laden. But last year, a popular uprising led to a coup that ousted longtime leader Omar al-Bashir. Since then, a civilian and military transitional government has led the country. And it's been shaky. The economy has collapsed. Protests still abound.

And the issue of Israel is tricky. Normalization was likely to anger the Islamists and many of the young people who helped bring this government to power. So the government had been skirting the issue, saying it did not have the mandate to make a decision on something so big.

HAJOOJ KUKA: So we were assured that this was not going to happen, and we were assured more than once.

PERALTA: That's activist Hajooj Kuka. He says he was shocked because the Sudanese people weren't consulted.

KUKA: So it was something that was enforced on us in a dictatorship way, in the same way as the government that we took away.

PERALTA: The United States did not make this decision easy for Sudan. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had strongly hinted the U.S. would not remove Sudan from its terrorist blacklist unless it agreed to normalize ties with Israel. Getting off the list would mean Sudan gets access to desperately needed investment and aid. Political analyst Khalid Ali says the U.S. foisted the deal on Sudan's fragile transitional government.

KHALID ALI: This is a free political ad for Donald Trump.

PERALTA: By late evening, Sudan put a huge caveat on Trump's sweeping announcement in a statement on state television. Normalization with Israel, it said, will not happen until approved by Parliament, a parliament that hasn't even been formed.

Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Nairobi.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.

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