Official: US unlikely to push Sudan on normalization with Israel following coup

Pressing to restore civilian-led transitional government, Biden Administration turns to UAE to exert its influence over Sudanese military

Sudanese Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan speaks during a press conference at the General Command of the Armed Forces in Khartoum, on October 26, 2021. (Ashraf Shazly/AFP)
Sudanese Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan speaks during a press conference at the General Command of the Armed Forces in Khartoum, on October 26, 2021. (Ashraf Shazly/AFP)

The United States is unlikely to pressure Sudan to move ahead with the Abraham Accords normalization agreement with Israel following a military coup in the African nation, a senior US official said Friday.

Former president Donald Trump agreed to support Sudan, including by removing the country from a list of state sponsors of terrorism, after it consented under US pressure to normalize relations with Israel — a move it has not yet fulfilled.

The US official noted that military leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan was part of the decision and said the United States remained supportive of normalization. However, the current situation did not appear conducive to moving things forward.

“[The Abraham Accords are] good for the whole – good for Sudan, it’s good for the region,” the official said.

“But I just do not see us pushing a military government on this issue right now, given the fact that we do not see Sudan being stable as long as there’s a military domination,” the official added.

The official also demanded that Sudan’s military refrain from violence against mass protests planned Saturday, saying it would be a key test of intentions after the civilian government was ousted.

The official also estimated Friday that 20 to 30 people have been killed since the military takeover, higher than the toll of eight given by Sudanese health officials.

The official called Saturday a “real test” and said Washington was “really concerned” about the response to demonstrations that have been called to oppose the military’s removal of the civilian-led transitional government.

People protest in Khartoum, Sudan, after a military coup earlier this week, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2021. The coup threatens to halt Sudan’s fitful transition to democracy, which began after the 2019 ouster of long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir and his Islamist government in a popular uprising. It came after weeks of mounting tensions between military and civilian leaders over the course and pace of that process. (AP Photo / Marwan Ali)

“The Sudanese people are preparing to take the streets tomorrow in protest of the military overthrow and we call on the security forces to refrain from any and all violence against protesters and to fully respect the citizens’ right to demonstrate peacefully,” the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

“I think this is going to be a real indication of what the military’s intentions are and what, unfortunately, the casualty account could be,” he said.

The official warned that the military, led by Burhan, could try to prevent demonstrations entirely or close roads and bridges.

Pressure on Sudan’s military

On the diplomatic front, the United States has been in close contact with the United Arab Emirates which influenced Burhan’s decision to free the deposed civilian prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok.

“We’re really focused on engaging the Emiratis, who have a relationship with General Burhan, to use that engagement — to use their credibility with General Burhan — to, in the short term, get those who were picked up” released, he said.

Around 30 political figures remain in detention since the takeover, the official said.

The United States, which under President Joe Biden has championed democracy, has suspended some $700 million in economic support to Sudan.

The aid was meant to back the democratic transition that started after longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir was toppled in 2019 faced with youth-led protests.

European countries have also put pressure on Sudan’s military but the key Arab powers of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and neighboring Egypt have emphasized stability in their statements.

Sudanese anti-coup protesters use bricks to barricade a street in the capital khartoum on October 27, 2021, amid ongoing demonstrations against a military takeover that has sparked widespread international condemnation. (AFP)

The US official did not deny the differences in approach but said the United States was seeking for the three Arab powers to push for democracy in Sudan.

“All three are very concerned with Sudan’s stability, and we simply do not see that a continuation of the type of military rule that General Burhan put in place and has in mind will keep Sudan stable,” he said.

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