Ousted Sudanese envoy to US warns Israel against backing coup in his country

Noureddine Sati, fired by military regime that seized control last year, says if Jerusalem wants to normalize ties with Khartoum, it must do so with the people, not the army

Screen capture from video of ousted Sudanese ambassador to the United States, Noureddine Sati, during an interview with the Kan public broadcaster, March 13, 2022. (Twitter)
Screen capture from video of ousted Sudanese ambassador to the United States, Noureddine Sati, during an interview with the Kan public broadcaster, March 13, 2022. (Twitter)

The ousted Sudanese ambassador to the United States, who was in office as his country normalized ties with Israel over the past year and a half, accused Jerusalem of backing last year’s military coup in Sudan and warned that it was not the way to win over the country’s citizens.

Noureddine Sati spoke to the Kan public broadcaster in a video interview broadcast with Hebrew subtitles on Sunday. In 2020, the veteran diplomat became the first Sudanese ambassador to the US in 23 years, then was axed after he spoke out against the October 2021 coup by Sudan’s top general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. The ruling regime recalled him in January this year, but he remains in the US.

Ties with Israel were not impacted by the coup, leading to a feeling among many in Sudan that Israel backed the military, providing fodder for those who oppose normalization, Kan reported.

Sati also said he saw Israel’s hand in the coup and warned that “Israel made a mistake, this is not the correct way to enter Sudan.”

“If you want the friendship of the Sudanese people, if you want normalization with the Sudanese people and Sudan, you need to come in the wide front door, from the door of the Sudanese people,” he said, referring to elected officials and the public who voted them into power.

“Israel and others need to understand, there will be no stability in Sudan as long as there is military rule,” he insisted. “Don’t stand with the army that is killing the Sudanese, the Sudanese will not forget it.”

Sudan’s top army general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan holds a press conference at the General Command of the Armed Forces in Khartoum on October 26, 2021. (Ashraf Shazly/AFP)

Sait, 75, said he has no way to get back to Sudan “under the current regime.” Rather he said, he will continue to speak out against the military rule from abroad.

Under the Trump administration, Sudan was encourage to normalize ties with Israel in return for Washington taking it off the list of countries that support terror, opening the way for diplomatic relations with the US too.

The two countries normalized relations late in 2020 as part of a series of US-brokered deals between Israel and four Arab countries — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. Israel and Sudan have since crafted security and intelligence relationships that have seen officials hold meetings during unannounced trips.

Sati explained to Kan that in Sudan, they were always taught that Israel is the enemy and to oppose its existence. He said that while there was no opposition in the government in principle to establishing ties with Israel, it was a matter of “timing” and consideration of public opinion in Sudan.

He also said there had been no public agreement signed with Israel — as was the case with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, which normalized ties in a ceremony at the White House — because of the inherent instability in Sudan.

Sudanese demonstrators step on an Israeli flag during a rally against their country’s signing of a deal on normalizing relations with the Jewish state, outside the cabinet offices in the capital Khartoum, on January 17, 2021 (ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)

Last month Burhan praised his country’s continuing ties with Israel, saying that intelligence sharing between the two former adversaries helped arrest suspected militants in his country.

Israel has been silent on the October military coup in Sudan, led by Burhan, and the ensuing unrest there, indicating it intended to maintain normalized ties with Sudan.

The normalization of ties with Israel paved the way for Sudan to reintegrate into the international community after two decades of isolation under former autocratic president Omar al-Bashir.

Sudan was once one of Israel’s fiercest rivals in the Arab world. It hosted the landmark Arab conference after the 1967 Mideast war at which eight Arab countries vowed never to make peace with Israel.

The October 25 military takeover has upended Sudan’s transition to democratic rule after three decades of repression and international isolation under al-Bashir. The African nation had been on a fragile path to democracy since a popular uprising forced the military to remove al-Bashir and his Islamist government in April 2019.

The coup triggered near-daily street protests, plunging the country further into turmoil. Security forces launched a deadly crackdown on protesters, killing around 80 people and wounding over 2,200 others since the coup, according to a Sudanese medical group.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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