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Egypt president urges Sudanese to talk, denies backing coup

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SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (AP) — Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi on Wednesday urged rival factions in Sudan to engage in talks to move forward in their transition to democracy after a coup toppled the civilian-led government.

The Oct. 25 military takeover has upended Sudan’s plans to move to democracy after three decades of repression and international sanctions under autocrat Omar al-Bashir. A popular uprising forced the military’s overthrow of al-Bashir and his Islamist government in April 2019.

Egypt, which has cultivated close ties with Sudan in recent years, fears that prolonged deadlock would further destabilize its southern neighbor.

Following the coup, some Sudanese opposition leaders, including former Foreign Minister Mariam al-Mahdi, suspected that Egypt had given a greenlight for the Sudan’s military leader, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, to oust Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s government.

Egypt pointedly did not sign on to a joint statement with the U.S., Britain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates calling on the Sudanese military to restore the civilian-led government.

Speaking at a news conference at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, el-Sissi denied siding with either party in Sudan. He said Egypt supported all parties of the transitional government and insisted that his government doesn’t intervene in other country’s internal affairs.

The Egyptian leader called on Sudanese parties to agree on a roadmap to stabilize the country and hold elections at the end of the transition.

“The situation in Sudan needs a political consensus among all existing forces, so it can be a way out of the current crisis,” he said.

The military takeover has plunged Sudan into political stalemate and relentless street protests that have brought the deaths of more than 60 people since Oct. 25. Protesters want a fully civilian government to lead the government, while the military says it would only hand over power to an elected administration.

The turmoil intensified earlier this month following the resignation of embattled Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok after he failed to reach a compromise between the military and the pro-democracy movement.

Hamdok had been removed in the coup only to be reinstated in November as part of an agreement with the military. The deal sidelined the pro-democracy movement, which has mobilized the street protests. Protest groups plan mass demonstrations across the country Thursday to pressure the military.

El-Sissi’s call came as the United Nations began separate consultations earlier this week with Sudanese groups to build confidence between the military and the pro-democracy movement before they possibly engage in direct talks.

The U.N. mission in Sudan urged the military authorities Wednesday to immediately cease a violent crackdown on protesters to help “create an atmosphere conducive to these consultations.”

BY SAMY MAGDY
Associated Press

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