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US asks Israel to urge Sudan’s military chief to reverse coup — report

Biden administration said to make request due to Israel’s close ties with Gen. Abdel Fattah-Burhan, who has played leading role in Israeli-Sudanese normalization

Sudan's head of the military, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, speaks during a press conference at the General Command of the Armed Forces in Khartoum, Sudan, on October 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Marwan Ali)
Sudan's head of the military, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, speaks during a press conference at the General Command of the Armed Forces in Khartoum, Sudan, on October 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Marwan Ali)

The Biden administration has asked Israel to press Sudanese military leader Gen. Abdel Fattah-Burhan to restore the civilian government toppled in a recent coup, according to a report Wednesday.

Citing Israeli and US officials, the Axios news site said the request was made in light of Israel’s close ties with Burhan, who led the military takeover in October.

Burhan, who has been Sudan’s de facto leader since president Omar al-Bashir was ousted in 2019, is a key figure in the normalization efforts between Sudan and Israel. The two countries agreed last year to normalize diplomatic ties as part of the US-backed Abraham Accords, with the military — not the civilian leadership — playing a more active role in advancing the establishment of ties.

Israel has remained mum about the coup, which has been condemned by most of the Western world. The report said the lack of Israeli response was boosting the perception in the United States and Sudan that Israel supports Burhan and the Sudanese military.

The news site also said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken brought up Sudan in a phone call last week with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, asking Israel to call on the Sudanese military to reverse the takeover.

The US message was reportedly relayed to officials in the Prime Minister’s Office and Foreign Ministry.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) and Defense Minister Benny Gantz move to take their seats before their meeting at the Foreign Ministry on May 25, 2021, in Jerusalem, Israel. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)

On Monday, the Walla news site reported an Israeli delegation visited Sudan in recent days and met with coup leaders in an effort to gauge the volatile political situation in Sudan and its possible effect on normalization.

The delegation was said to have met with prominent Gen. Abdel Rahim Hamdan Dagalo, who was among a group of Sudanese military leaders who visited Israel several weeks earlier.

Israeli officials quoted in the Walla report said the political situation in Sudan and the stability of the civilian government was discussed during Dagalo’s visit. However, they said the Sudanese delegation did not give any indication the military would soon detain Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and other top officials, dissolve the government, declare a nationwide state of emergency, and launch a deadly crackdown against peaceful protesters.

Pro-democracy activists have been rounded up since the military takeover, and US officials estimate that 20 to 30 protesters have been killed by the military.

A man waves the Sudanese national flag as he chants slogans during a protest in Khartoum, Sudan, on October 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Marwan Ali)

Briefing reporters on condition of anonymity last Friday, a senior US official said he didn’t think now was the time for Washington to move forward with efforts to pressure Sudan into finalizing its normalization deal with Israel.

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.

“[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.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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