CAIRO (AP) — Two senior U.S. diplomats were in Sudan Wednesday to try to find a way out of the crisis roiling the African country since an October military coup. An Israeli delegation meanwhile met with Sudan’s ruling generals to consolidate newly established ties between their countries.
The Oct. 25 military takeover has upended Sudan’s transition to democratic rule after three decades of repression and international isolation under autocratic President Omar al-Bashir, ousted during a popular uprising in April 2019.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Molly Phee and the newly appointed U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa, David Satterfield, first met with pro-democracy activists from the Sudanese Professionals Association, according to the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum.
The activists led the uprising against al-Bashir and are now a pillar of anti-coup protests that have demanded a fully civilian government to lead the transition. The diplomats also met with another group, the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, on “their positive engagement” with U.N. efforts to end the deadlock, the embassy said. They were expected to meet with the ruling generals later Wednesday.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said earlier this week that Phee and Satterfield would reiterate Washington's call for Sudanese security forces to “end violence and respect freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.”
Before arriving in Khartoum, the two attended a meeting of the Friends of Sudan group in Saudi Arabia to rally support for U.N. efforts to end Sudan’s deadlock. The group includes the United States, Britain and other international governments and world financial institutions.
Sudan’s turmoil has been worsened following the resignation of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok earlier this month. Hamdok, who was ousted in the October coup only to be reinstated a month later under heavy international pressure, stepped down on Jan. 2 after his efforts to reach a compromise failed.
The Sudan Doctors Committee, also part of the pro-democracy alliance, said one protester was shot and killed Wednesday as security forces removed makeshift barricades in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman.
The barricades were part of a two-day civil disobedience campaign the pro-democracy movement had called for following a deadly crackdown on Monday when security forces opened fire on anti-coup protests in Khartoum, killing at least seven people. Wednesday’s fatality brings the death toll among the protesters since the coup to 72.
Also Wednesday, an Israeli delegation met with top Sudanese military officials in Khartoum, according to a Sudanese military official and Israeli reports.
The Sudanese official said the delegation, including officials from the Mossad spy agency, met with Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the coup leader and head of the ruling Sovereign Council, and other military officials. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.
The Israeli public TV station Kan also reported the visit and said the plane carrying the Israeli delegation made a brief stop in Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh before heading to the Sudanese capital. Israel maintains close security ties with Egypt, the first Arab country to strike peace with Israel.
Sudan normalized ties with Israel in 2020 as part of a series of U.S.-brokered deals between Israel and four Arab countries. The agreement paved the way for the African country to reintegrate into the international community after two decades of isolation under al-Bashir.
Israel has been silent on the October coup and its aftermath, indicating it intends to maintain normalized ties with Sudan, which formerly was a top critic of Israel in the Arab world.