Sudan army sends delegation to Saudi Arabia for talks

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Air raids and gunfire continued to rock Khartoum, showing no indications of abating despite attempts at a lasting ceasefire

Sudan’s army has sent a delegation to Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah for ceasefire talks as part of a joint Saudi Arabia and the United States initiative, Al Jazeera reported citing an army statement.

The development came after both the army and the rival paramilitary Rapid Support Forces said they will only discuss humanitarian ceasefires and not hold negotiations on ending the conflict in Sudan. According to the Sudanese army, the army delegation will speak about the “details of the truce in the process of being extended” with its paramilitary foes. The Saudi Arabia Foreign Ministry in a statement on Friday said that the joint initiative aims at reducing tensions in Sudan, as per the Al Jazeera report.

Sources in the Sudanese army have said that a delegation departed for Jeddah, Al Jazeera reported. According to sources, the delegation included three army officers which include a general and an ambassador.

Air raids and gunfire continued to rock Khartoum, showing no indications of abating despite attempts at a lasting ceasefire. Regular army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan had supported the weeklong ceasefire brokered by South Sudan on Wednesday.

The paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on Friday said they were extending the ceasefire brokered under US-Saudi mediation by three days. Multiple truces have been agreed to since the fighting between the rival security forces started on April 15. However, none of them has been respected.

So far, about 700 people have been killed in the conflict. Most of them have been killed in Khartoum and the western Darfur region, Al Jazeera reported citing Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project. The United Nations Human Rights Council has announced that it will hold a special session on the situation in Sudan on May 11.

Smoke rising in Khartoum, capital of Sudan. (Photo by Mohamed Khidir_Xinhua)

The gathering will take place in Geneva after a request submitted by the United Kingdom, Germany, Norway and the United States on Friday which 52 countries have so far supported, according to UNHRC, as per the Al Jazeera report.

Meanwhile, the UN children’s agency, UNICEF, warned on Friday that “the situation in Sudan has become fatal for a frighteningly large number of children,” as per the news report. A spokesman for the UN Secretary-general Antonio Guterres on Friday warned the conflict could cause hunger and malnutrition for 19 million people in the coming months.

Since a 2021 coup that upended Sudan’s transition to democracy, the kingdom has been mediating between the ruling generals and a pro-democracy movement. After Sudan’s top two generals — commanders of the military and the paramilitary — turned on each other after months of tensions and the latest fighting broke out in April, Jeddah became a hub for those evacuated by sea from Sudan’s main sea port of Port Sudan.

Officials from the military and the RSF said the talks would address the opening of humanitarian corridors in Khartoum and the adjacent city of Omdurman, which have been the centers of the battles.

They would also discuss providing protection to civilian infrastructure, including health facilities that have been overwhelmed and suffer from dire shortages of both staff and medical supplies, one military official said.

An RSF official they would also discuss a mechanism to monitor the cease-fire, which is one of a series of truces that failed to stop the fighting. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the talks in Jeddah.

Meanwhile, Sudan’s pro-democracy movement said the talks would be “a first step” to stop the country’s collapse and called on leaders of the military and the RSF to make a “bold decision” to end the conflict.

Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, leader of Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Force’s (RSF).(Photo:Instagram)

The movement, which is a coalition of political parties and civil society groups, had negotiated with the military for months to restore the country’s democratic transition after a 2021 military coup led by army chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, who also chairs the ruling sovereign council, and his deputy in the council Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo.

On Saturday, Dagalo tweeted his first comment on the talks, welcoming the initiative to establish a firm cease-fire and open humanitarian corridors. “We remain hopeful that the discussions will achieve their intended goals,” he said.

At least 550 people have been killed, including civilians, and more than 4,900 have been wounded as of Monday, according to the Sudanese Health Ministry. The Sudanese Doctors’ Syndicate, which tracks only civilian casualties, said Friday that 473 civilians have been killed in the violence and more than 2,450 have been wounded.

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