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Israeli envoys will travel to Sudan for normalisation deal, Netanyahu says

FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a briefing on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) development in Israel at his office in Jerusalem September 13, 2020. Yoav Dudkevitch/Yedioth Ahronoth/Pool via REUTERS

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An Israeli delegation will travel to Sudan in coming days after the two countries agreed to take steps to normalise ties, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday.

The agreement, brokered with the help of the United States and announced on Friday, made Sudan the third Arab government to set aside hostilities with Israel in the last two months.

“An Israeli delegation will leave to Sudan in the coming days to complete the agreement,” Netanyahu said at a news conference.

It was unclear, however, how long it will take for an accord to be completed. The military and civilian leaders of Sudan’s transitional government have been divided over how fast and how far to go in establishing ties with Israel.

The Sudanese premier wants approval from a yet-to-be formed parliament to proceed with a broader, formal normalisation, and that may not be a quick process given the sensitivities and civilian-military differences. It is unclear when the assembly will be created.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision this week to remove Sudan from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism paved the way for the accord, marking a foreign policy achievement for the Republican president as he seeks re-election on Nov. 3, trailing in opinion polls behind Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Trump sealed the Israel-Sudan agreement in a phone call with Netanyahu and Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Transitional Council Head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, in which he said: “Do you think ‘Sleepy Joe’ could have made this deal?”

Netanyahu, reliant on bipartisan support for Israel in Washington, responded haltingly: “Well, Mr. President, one thing I can tell you, is ... we appreciate the help for peace from anyone in America.”

Asked at Saturday’s news conference whether he was embarrassed by Trump’s question, Netanyahu said: “It is very difficult to embarrass me,” and stressed he was grateful to Trump for his policy toward Israel. “I hope this policy will continue. I don’t want to make any prophecies about the election results.”

Reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by David Holmes