Israel said to invite warring Sudanese generals for ceasefire talks

Report says military chief and paramilitary leader appear to consider offer seriously, as foreign minister stresses Jerusalem ‘working different channels’ to help reach ceasefire

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (left) meets with Sudanese ruler Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan in Khartoum on February 2, 2023. (Shlomi Amsallem)
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (left) meets with Sudanese ruler Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan in Khartoum on February 2, 2023. (Shlomi Amsallem)

Israel is offering to mediate between warring factions in Sudan and has reportedly invited their leaders to the country for ceasefire talks.

Over 420 people, including at least 273 civilians, have been killed, and more than 3,700 wounded, since fighting erupted on April 15 between forces loyal to army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and those of his deputy-turned-rival Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

The chaos has led foreign nations to begin evacuating their citizens, while millions of Sudanese unable to flee battles in Khartoum and across the country try to survive acute shortages of water, food, medicines, and fuel, as well as power and internet blackouts.

Citing unnamed Foreign Ministry officials, the Walla news site reported that Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and the ministry’s director-general Ronen Levy have been in direct contact with Burhan and Dagalo since the fighting erupted and urged them to reach a ceasefire.

Senior figures in the Mossad intelligence agency, which has spearheaded contacts with Dagalo while the Foreign Ministry manages ties with Burhan, have reportedly relayed similar messages.

The Foreign Ministry officials quoted in the report said neither Burhan or Dagalo ruled out Israel’s offer to host negotiations and appeared to be considering it seriously.

“Since the start of hostilities in the country, Israel has been working different channels to bring about a ceasefire and the advancement in recent days is very encouraging,” Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said in a statement to Hebrew media outlets.

“If there is a way Israel could assist in ending the fighting, we would be very happy to do so,” added Cohen, who visited Sudan in February.

Sudan’s Army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (C) and paramilitary commander Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (L) lift documents alongside civilian leaders following the signing of an initial deal aimed at ending a deep crisis caused by a military coup, in the capital Khartoum, on December 5, 2022. (Ashraf Shazly/ AFP)

Israel’s offer joins a flurry of diplomatic activity taking place since hostilities erupted last week as the international community attempts to broker a ceasefire. Over the weekend, Turkey also offered to host talks between the sides.

According to reports, Burhan has refused to enter talks until Dagalo’s troops retreat from Khartoum. Dagalo has said he will not meet with Burhan, but is open to talks with other members of the armed forces.

According to Walla, Israel has coordinated its diplomatic moves with the Biden administration and regional states such as the United Arab Emirates, updating them in advance on the invitation to the generals.

Israel and Sudan agreed in 2020 to normalize diplomatic ties as part of the US-backed Abraham Accords, but a final agreement has remained elusive and the fresh hostilities threaten to make the prospect of a deal even more remote.

Part of the delay in normalizing relations stemmed from a dispute between Sudan’s military and civilian leadership over whether to normalize with Israel. While Burhan had backed normalization, the effort was later put on the back burner. After Burhan and Dagalo deposed the civilian government and seized power, the US cut aid to Sudan, further setting back the initiative.

Last week, a diplomatic official told The Times of Israel that Israel is in touch with Sudan’s military chiefs in a bid to bring calm while stressing that Jerusalem was not taking sides between Burhan and Dagalo, who is widely known as Hemedti.

A destroyed military vehicle is seen in southern in Khartoum, Sudan, April 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Marwan Ali)

Also Monday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that Sudan — already one of the world’s poorest countries, with a history of military coups — was on “the edge of the abyss” and said that the violence there “could engulf the whole region and beyond.”

“We must all do everything within our power to pull Sudan back from the edge of the abyss,” Guterres said, calling again for a ceasefire.

Britain has requested an emergency UN Security Council meeting on Sudan, which is expected to take place on Tuesday, according to a diplomat.

Despite the evacuations, US and European officials insisted they were still engaged in trying to secure an end to the fighting. But so far the conflict has shown how little leverage they have with two generals, who appear determined to fight to the end.

The US and EU have been dealing with the generals for years, trying to push them into ceding power to a democratic, civilian government. A pro-democracy uprising led to the 2019 ouster of former strongman Omar al-Bashir, but hopes were dashed when Burhan and Dagalo launched a coup in 2021.

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