US says Sudan’s factions agree to humanitarian ceasefire

US says Sudan’s factions agree to humanitarian ceasefire
Sudanese people stand in front of a shop in Khartoum, Sudan, 19 April 2023. A power struggle erupted since 15 April between the Sudanese army led by army Chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the paramilitaries of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) led by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, resulting in at least 200 deaths according to doctors' association in Sudan. (Photo: EPA-EFE / STR)

(Bloomberg) -- The US announced Sudan’s two warring factions had agreed to a three-day ceasefire and raised the prospect of peace talks, even as the two sides showed little appetite for negotiations to end fighting that’s killed hundreds of people.

The leaders of the Sudanese Armed Forces and the rival Rapid Support Forces agreed to halt the fighting starting at midnight in Sudan — 6 p.m. Monday on the US East Coast — after “intense negotiation” over the last two days, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

Blinken also raised the possibility of negotiations to end clashes that broke out April 15 and has left more than 420 people dead. The US is working with international partners and Sudanese groups to create a committee “to oversee the negotiation, conclusion, and implementation of a permanent cessation of hostilities,” he said.

Yet the leaders of Sudan’s army and the RSF paramilitary battling for control of Sudan have so far resisted renewed diplomatic efforts to bring them to the negotiating table. While officials continue to call on army leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Rapid Support Forces head Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo to put an end to the hostilities, neither of them is ready, according to two senior diplomats briefed on the matter.

Foreign governments are increasingly looking to the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, a regional bloc, to lead mediation efforts as they may be able to bring the pressure of countries in the region to bear on the two men, the diplomats said.

That appeared to be confirmed by a statement from the RSF, which called the cease-fire a “humanitarian truce” to help civilians flee the violence. The RSF statement didn’t mention the prospect of talks to end the fighting for good.

The cease-fire is meant to “establish humanitarian corridors, allowing citizens and residents to access essential resources, health care, and safe zones, while also evacuating diplomatic missions,” the RSF said. “We pledge our commitment to uphold the cease-fire during the declared armistice and caution against any violations by the opposing party.”

The cease-fire announcement came after the American and UK armed forces evacuated embassy personnel from Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, and as other governments work to help diplomats and citizens fleeing the violence.

At a briefing earlier Monday, Blinken said the US is “deeply engaged” in trying to end the conflict. He said he’d spoken directly to Burhan and Dagalo as US officials engage counterparts from countries including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and the UK about efforts to agree a cease-fire.

“We strongly support African-led efforts to help both mediate this crisis, to end the hostilities,” Blinken told reporters.

The conflict is the culmination of a long-simmering power struggle between the army and the RSF, and upended plans for a power-sharing government that was supposed to lead the nation of about 45 million to democratic elections after a 2021 coup.

There was at least some hope that negotiators could move the rival armed groups from a temporary cease-fire toward a more durable peace.

“This initiative differs from its predecessors in that it is not only concerned with humanitarian issues, but rather it contained detailed issues and identified the necessary mechanisms to reach a final agreement,” said Khalid Omer Yousif, a spokesman for a coalition of pro-democracy groups who served as a former Sudanese government cabinet minister.

–With assistance from Courtney McBride.


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