Sudan's top general has lauded recent ties with Israel, saying that intelligence sharing between the two former adversaries helped arrest suspected militants in his country.
Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the ruling Sovereign Council, said an exchange of intelligence has enabled Sudan to dismantle and arrest suspected militant groups in Sudan that "could have undermined the security of Sudan and the region."
Speaking in an interview with Sudan's state-run TV aired late Saturday, Burhan said it is legitimate for Sudanese security and intelligence agencies to have ties and exchange visits with Israel.
He insisted his country's relations with Israel are not of a political nature, saying that no senior Sudanese official has yet made a visit to Israel. He did not elaborate.
There was no immediate comment from Israel. And Jerusalem has been silent on the October military coup in Sudan, led by Burhan, and the ensuing unrest there, indicating it intends to maintain normalized ties with Sudan.
Sudanese and Israeli officials exchanged unannounced visits in recent weeks. Most recently, a Sudanese security delegation visited Tel Aviv last week, following a visit by Israeli officials, including Mossad intelligence officers, to Khartoum in January.
In October, the then Sudanese justice minister, Nasredeen Abdulbari, and Israeli Cabinet ministers Idan Roll and Edawi Frej held a rare public meeting in the United Arab Emirates' capital of Abu Dhabi.
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 Six Day War at which eight Arab countries vowed never to make peace with Israel.
The Oct. 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 has 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 injured since the coup, according to a Sudanese medical group.
The U.N., the U.S., and other Western governments have pressured the military to end the crackdown on protesters and restore a civilian-led government to complete the country's transition. Congress members have also called for sanctions on military leaders in Sudan.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Molly Phee and the newly appointed U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa visited Sudan last month and said they made clear to the generals that - the U.S. "will consider measures to hold accountable those responsible for failure to move forward."
In the interview, Burhan pushed back against threats of punitive measures, saying that sanctions and threats of sanctions will not help.