Sudan's rival armies dispatch envoys to Saudi Arabia for truce talks

Sudanese evacuees disembark Saudi Amanah ship after arriving at Jeddah port, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, May 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Sudan's two warring generals have sent their envoys to Saudi Arabia for talks aimed at firming up a shaky ceasefire after three weeks of fierce fighting that has killed hundreds and pushed the African country to the brink of collapse, three Sudanese officials said.

The negotiations would be the first between Sudan's military, led by General Abdel Fattah al Burhan, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces [RSF], commanded by General Mohammed Hamdan Daglo, since clashes broke out on April 15.

According to the three — two senior military officials and one from their paramilitary rival — the talks will begin in the Saudi coastal city of Jeddah on Saturday, following concerted efforts by Riyadh and other international powers to pressure the warring sides in Sudan to the negotiating table.

Foreign governments have rushed to evacuate their diplomats and thousands of foreign nationals out of Sudan.

Saudi warships have been ferrying those fleeing from Port Sudan, on Sudan's Red Sea coast, which has now become the entry hub for aid sent to the embattled nation.

Multiple truces have been agreed since the fighting erupted on April 15, but none has been respected.

One of the military officials said the talks are part of an initiative proposed by Saudi Arabia and the United State. He said they would also discuss providing protection to civilian infrastructure, including health facilities.

The RSF official said Saudi and American officials would facilitate the talks.

He said they would also discuss a mechanism to monitor the ceasefire and confirmed on Friday that the RSF delegation had left for Jeddah.

Sudan's military also later its delegation had departed to Saudi Arabia, saying the talks would discuss "details of the truce," without elaborating.

US grateful for Saudi efforts

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, meanwhile, discussed the initiative in a phone call with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

It said the initiative aims to "prepare the ground" for dialogue to deescalate tensions in the African country. The statement also did not provide further details.

US State department spokesperson Matthew Miller said Blinken expressed his "gratitude for Saudi Arabia's invaluable assistance in facilitating the safe arrival in Jeddah of US citizens and their family members departing Sudan."

The two top diplomats "affirmed their countries’ intensive collaboration on diplomatic work to bring about an end to the fighting in Sudan," Miller said.

The UN envoy in Sudan, Volker Perthes, lauded the move as "a positive sign," but cautioned about high expectations from the meeting.

"It is a positive sign, a sign of getting more realistic, realising that there will be no easy or quick win," he told the AP from Port Sudan. "We need to realise, however, that this is a first encounter."

The meeting may be "exploratory rather than concrete," he said and added that achieving a "lasting ceasefire" would need more than one meeting.

Situation fatal for children

The conflict has killed about 700 people so far, mostly in Khartoum and the western Darfur region, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project.

The UN children's agency, UNICEF, warned Friday that "the situation in Sudan has become fatal for a frighteningly large number of children".

Spokesperson James Elder said at least 190 children have been killed and 1,700 have been wounded in the fighting.

"This means that every single hour, you have seven boys or girls ... killed or injured," he said at a press conference on Friday in Geneva. "I think this is underlining the enormity of how violent this is."

So far, at least 334,000 people have been displaced inside Sudan, and tens of thousands more have crossed to neighbouring countries — Egypt, Chad, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Ethiopia, according to UN agencies.


Source: TRT World