Saudi Arabia will host the first direct talks on Saturday between the warring armies in Sudan, after several ceasefire agreements collapsed.
A joint US-Saudi statement welcomed the start of “pre-negotiation talks” in Jeddah between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces. On Friday, reports spoke of the continuation of clashes in Khartoum.
Sudan’s military says the talks aim to address humanitarian issues.
There was no official comment from Reporters Without Borders.
The army confirmed that it had sent envoys to Jeddah to participate in the talks, which are being pressured by the United Nations and aid agencies, in the face of an acute humanitarian crisis in Sudan.
The fierce fighting, which lasted nearly three weeks, left hundreds of people dead and nearly 450,000 civilians displaced. Of this total, more than 115,000 people have sought refuge in neighboring countries, according to the International Organization for Migration.
The commander of the Sudanese army, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan – the de facto Sudanese president – is engaged in a bitter struggle for power with the commander of the Rapid Support Forces, General Muhammad Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti.
The statement issued by the US and Saudi governments stated that they “urge the two parties to take into account the interests of the Sudanese nation and its people and to actively engage in talks aimed at a cease-fire and an end to the conflict, which would spare the suffering of the Sudanese people and the people.” Ensure the availability of humanitarian aid to the affected areas.
The joint statement also expressed hope for an “expanded negotiation process that includes participation with all Sudanese parties.”
UNICEF spokesman James Elder said the first 11 days of conflict alone resulted in an estimated 190 children killed and 1,700 injured – figures only taken from health facilities in Khartoum and Darfur.
“The reality is likely to be much worse,” he said.
The intensity of the fighting has prevented much needed aid from arriving.
So far, General Burhan and Hemedti, who have led an Arab militia in the brutal Darfur conflict, have shown little willingness to reach a peace settlement.