The military leader of Sudan’s ruling council sought to defend on Monday a US-backed agreement to establish relations with Israel, saying the deal was yet to be concluded and could benefit Sudan as it struggles with a profound economic crisis.
In his first public comments on the deal, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said he had consulted the Prime Minister and most political forces before the agreement was announced on Friday in a call with US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The move is controversial in Sudan, once a staunch enemy of Israel, and has stirred opposition from some prominent political factions.
“I always prefer to call it reconciliation instead of normalisation,” Burhan said in a televised interview. “So far, we have not concluded an agreement. We will sign with the other two parties, America and Israel, on the aspects of cooperation.”
Burhan leads a military-civilian sovereign council that took charge after the ouster of former president Omar al-Bashir last year following popular protests.
A government of technocrats has been grappling with an economic crisis that includes rapid inflation, a weakening currency, and shortages of essential goods.
Sudan won the prospect of some relief last week when the United States confirmed it would lift Khartoum from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, a designation that had blocked international funding and debt relief.
Many Sudanese saw the move as unduly delayed and deployed to pressure Sudan into accepting the deal on Israel.
“We were not subjected to blackmail,” said Burhan. “We lay down our interests and we found benefits, and it could be that we gain more than the other parties.”
Burhan said tense relations with the civilian component of the sovereign council had improved recently, and that he had agreed with civilian political leaders that the deal on Israel should be approved by a yet-to-be formed legislative council.
Iran says US-brokered Sudan-Israel deal secured by ‘ransom’
Iran’s foreign ministry on Saturday described a US-brokered Sudan-Israel deal to normalise ties as “phoney” and accused Khartoum of paying a ransom in return for Washington removing it from a list of state sponsors of terrorism.
The deal agreed on Friday marked the third Arab government after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to set aside hostilities with Israel in the last two months.
“Pay enough ransom, close your eyes to the crimes against Palestinians, then you’ll be taken off the so-called ‘terrorism’ blacklist,” the ministry tweeted in English. “Obviously, the list is as phoney as the US fight against terrorism. Shameful.”
US President Donald Trump announced on Monday he would take Sudan off the list once it had deposited $335 million it had pledged to pay in compensation.
Khartoum has since placed the funds in a special escrow account for victims of al Qaeda attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.
Trump also said the Palestinians “are wanting to do something” but offered no proof. Palestinian leaders have condemned recent Arab overtures to Israel as a betrayal of their nationalist cause for statehood in Israeli-occupied territories. They have refused to engage with the Trump administration, seeing it as biased in favour of Israel.
In recent weeks the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain became the first Arab states in a quarter of a century to agree to formal relations with Israel, forged largely through shared fears of Iran.
The military and civilian leaders of Sudan’s transitional government have been divided over how fast and how far to go in establishing ties with Israel.
A sticking point in the negotiations was Sudan’s insistence that any announcement of Khartoum’s delisting from terrorism designation not be explicitly linked to relations with Israel.
Sudan’s 1993 designation as a state sponsor of terrorism dates to its toppled ruler Omar al-Bashir and has made it difficult for the transitional government in Khartoum to access urgently needed debt relief and foreign financing.