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Sudanese diplomat to Israeli TV: Coup won’t dramatically impact normalization

Unnamed official quoted saying arrested PM Hamdok had intended to travel to Washington soon to sign the deal; US says agreement ‘will have to be evaluated’

Sudanese security forces keep watch during protests against a military coup that overthrew the transition to civilian rule, on October 25, 2021, in the capital Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman. (AFP)
Sudanese security forces keep watch during protests against a military coup that overthrew the transition to civilian rule, on October 25, 2021, in the capital Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman. (AFP)

A senior Sudanese diplomat was quoted Monday by Israel’s public broadcaster as saying that the military’s takeover of the country is not expected to dramatically affect the normalization process with the Jewish state.

The Kan news report said this was because the military leaders, many of whom support the normalization efforts, have strengthened their position after dissolving the government and declaring a state of emergency.

The outlet quoted the unnamed diplomat as saying Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who was arrested early Monday, had intended to soon travel to Washington to formally sign the normalization deal.

The diplomat warned, however, that in the long term, the identification of the military with the normalization efforts could backfire.

The military “made a big mistake by throwing away the partnership with the civilian officials,” the diplomat said. “They are underestimating the response of the people, which is fed up of military coups, and they may face an uprising.”

Israeli officials have yet to comment publicly on the coup in Sudan, though the broadcaster said several meetings were held Monday on the matter.

Sudanese protesters burn tires to block a road in the capital Khartoum, to denounce overnight detentions by the army of members of Sudan’s government, on October 25, 2021. (AFP)

Citing unnamed sources familiar with the deliberations, the report said the belief in Israel was that the takeover could delay Sudan’s official accession to the Abraham Accords, the US-backed normalization agreements reached last year between Israel and several Arab states.

According to the Haaretz daily, Israeli officials were awaiting developments in Sudan before commenting on the coup.

Diplomatic sources told the newspaper that there have been close contacts in recent weeks with officials in Sudan, but stressed that Israel was in no way involved in the unfolding events.

“The internal situation in the country has made it difficult for it to advance contacts with Israel as the other countries did,” one of the sources said.

Unlike other Arab states that forged open diplomatic relations with Israel — the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Bahrain — little public process has been made in the normalization process with Sudan since the dramatic announcement.

This combination of pictures created on October 23, 2020, shows an Israeli flag during a rally in the coastal city of Tel Aviv on September 19, 2020; and a Sudanese flag during a gathering east of the capital Khartoum on June 3, 2020. (JACK GUEZ and ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)

The coup has been met with alarm around the world, and the United States has suspended aid to Sudan and urged the immediate restoration of a civilian government.

“The civilian-led transitional government should be immediately restored and represents the will of the people,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

“In light of these developments, the United States is pausing assistance” meant for economic support, he said.

He said that the suspension concerned a $700 million package in economic support meant to assist Sudan’s democratic transition.

“We are pausing that full amount,” Price said.

“We are very much standing with the people of Sudan. The people of Sudan have made clear their aspirations for the continuation of transition to democracy and we will continue to support that including, if needed, by holding accountable those responsible for these anti-democratic actions.”

Price said that the United States received no prior knowledge of the military’s intention to oust Hamdok and had not been able to make contact with the detained civilian leader.

He was also asked about the possible impact of the coup on the Abraham Accords.

“The normalization effort between Israel and Sudan is something that will have to be evaluated as we and as Israel watch very closely what happens in the coming hours and coming days. I wouldn’t want to weigh into that just yet,” he said.

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok holds a press conference at the Council of Ministers in the capital Khartoum, August 15, 2021. (Ashraf Shazly/AFP/File)

The military takeover comes more than two years after protesters forced the ouster of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir and just weeks before the military was supposed to hand the leadership of the council that runs the country over to civilians.

After the early morning arrests of Hamdok and other senior officials, thousands poured into the streets of the capital, Khartoum, and its twin city of Omdurman. They blocked streets and set fire to tires as security forces used tear gas to disperse them.

Security forces opened fire on some of the crowds, and three protesters were killed, according to the Sudan Doctors’ Committee, which said 80 people were wounded.

Records from a Khartoum hospital obtained by The Associated Press showed some people admitted with gunshot wounds.

In this frame taken from video, the head of the military, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, announced in a televised address, that he was dissolving the country’s ruling Sovereign Council, as well as the government led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, in Khartoum, Sudan, October 25, 2021. (Sudan TV via AP)

In the afternoon, the head of the military, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, announced on national TV that he was dissolving the government and the Sovereign Council, a joint military and civilian body created soon after al-Bashir’s ouster to run the country.

Burhan said quarrels among political factions prompted the military intervention. Tensions have been rising for weeks over the course and the pace of the transition to democracy in Sudan, a nation in Africa linked by language and culture to the Arab world.

The general declared a state of emergency and said the military will appoint a technocratic government to lead the country to elections, set for July 2023. But he made clear the military will remain in charge.

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