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Axed Sudanese spokesman defends opening up on talks with Israel

Haidar Badawi Sadiq tells Israeli broadcaster he doesn’t regret making revelation, laments Khartoum’s unwillingness to do same and thinks normalization only a matter of time

Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Haidar Badawi Sadiq was fired on August 19, 2020, a day after expressing support for peace with Israel. (YouTube screenshot)
Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Haidar Badawi Sadiq was fired on August 19, 2020, a day after expressing support for peace with Israel. (YouTube screenshot)

The former spokesman of Sudan’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday that he does not regret confirming the existence of normalization talks between Khartoum and Jerusalem even after the revelation led to his firing earlier this week.

“I don’t regret it at all,” Haidar Badawi Sadiq told Israel’s Kan public broadcaster in an interview.

Sadiq was fired on Wednesday, a day after he sparked a diplomatic flurry by publicly disclosing normalization talks with Israel, apparently without authorization.

Sadiq told Sky News Arabia Tuesday that Sudan was looking forward to establishing ties with Israel and predicted that a treaty between Jerusalem and Khartoum could be signed by the end of the year or in early 2021.

His comments which came amid feverish speculation that other countries may soon join the United Arab Emirates in agreeing to normalization with Israel.

The official Sudanese News Agency reported the next day that acting Foreign Minister Omar Qamar al-Din Ismail “issued a decision relieving Sadiq of his position.”

Sudanese Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of the military council, speaks during a military-backed rally, in Omdurman district, west of Khartoum, Sudan, June 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Speaking to Kan, Sadiq said he had been tired of the talks with Israel only being confirmed by outside sources and after he was asked by local reporters to comment on Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen’s claim that official ties could be inked between the countries by the end of the year, the former spokesman decided that he could no longer remain silent.

Sadiq said that he accepted his resignation and believed that what was important was that the issue had been placed on the national agenda.

“We need to act in order to create public discourse regarding this issue, so that [the talks] take place publicly,” he told Kan.

Sadiq said he didn’t understand why his comments had caused such uproar, claiming that Sudan had begun warming relations with Israel before the UAE had.

Sudanese demonstrators march with national flags as they gather during a rally demanding a civilian body to lead the transition to democracy, outside the army headquarters in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on April 13, 2019. (AP Photo)

The former spokesman claimed the current Sudanese government had recently provided assistance in bringing a group of Falash Mura Jews from Ethiopia to Israel.

The fired spokesman insisted that the countries were still heading in the direction of normalized relations regardless of the past week’s events, with the proof being that Khartoum has not denied its contacts with Jerusalem.

Al-Din swiftly distanced himself from Sadiq’s comments on Tuesday and said his ministry was not involved in talks, but many analysts have noted that while the denial may be technically true, contacts are seemingly being run through the country’s military leadership, headed by transitional leader Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

“We need to be brave, just like President al-Burhan who met with Netanyahu and like the senior officials in the UAE,” Sadiq said.

“I very much support peace with Israel because it will benefit Sudan,” he said, adding that he hoped to visit Israel in the future.

Omar Ismail, the acting foreign minister of Sudan, speaks during a protest at the Sudan Embassy in Washington, March 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

In February, Burhan met in secret with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Uganda, a meeting quickly disavowed by the country’s prime minister Abdalla Hamdok.

At the time, a senior Israeli official told The Times of Israel that Burhan and Netanyahu had agreed to gradually normalize relations between the two nations, which remain technically at war.

Israel officials have long expressed a wish for improved ties with Khartoum, citing its importance in the region as well as its geographic location. The nation was the birthplace of the Arab League’s 1967 policy refusing negotiations or normalization with Israel, but in recent years has seemingly softened its stance, moving out of Iran’s sphere of influence as it has desperately sought the removal of US sanctions as a supporter of Hamas, Hezbollah and other terror groups.

A Sudanese government official told The Associated Press Tuesday that deliberations between Sudanese and Israeli officials have been going on for months, with help from Egypt, the UAE and the US.

“It’s a matter of time. We are finalizing everything. The Emirati move encouraged us and helped calm some voices within the government who were afraid of backlash from the Sudanese public,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.

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