UN envoy says Sudan’s warring sides agree to negotiate
CAIRO (AP) — Sudan’s warring generals have agreed to send representatives for negotiations, potentially in Saudi Arabia, the top U.N. official in the country said Monday, even as the two sides clashed in the capital of Khartoum despite another three-day extension of a fragile cease-fire.
If the talks come together, they would initially focus on establishing a “stable and reliable” cease-fire, Volker Perthes told The Associated Press. However, he warned of challenges in holding the negotiations.
A string of temporary truces over the past week has eased fighting only in some areas while fierce battles have continued elsewhere, driving civilians from their homes and pushing Sudan further into disaster.
Humanitarian groups have been trying to restore the flow of help to a country where nearly a third of the population of 46 million relied on international aid even before the explosion of violence. The U.N. food agency on Monday said it was ending the temporary suspension of its operations in Sudan, put in place after three of its team members were killed in the war-wrecked Darfur region early in the fighting.
The World Food Program will resume food distribution in four provinces — al-Qadaref, Gezira, Kassala and White Nile — working in areas where security permits, Executive Director Cindy McCain said. The numbers of those needing help will “grow significantly as fighting continues,” she said. “To best protect our necessary humanitarian workers and the people of Sudan, the fighting must stop.”
A day earlier, the International Committee of the Red Cross flew in a planeload of medical supplies to bring some relief to hospitals overwhelmed by the mayhem.
Direct talks, if they take place, would be significant progress since fighting erupted on April 15 between the army and a rival paramilitary group called the Rapid Support Forces. For much of the conflict, army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan and RSF commander Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo have appeared determined to fight to the end.
Their power struggle has put millions of Sudanese in the line of gun battles, artillery bombardments and airstrikes. Tens of thousands have fled Khartoum and other cities, and more than two-thirds of hospitals in areas with active fighting are out of service, with fighters looting the dwindling supplies.
At least 436 civilians have been killed and more than 1,200 injured since the fighting began, according to figures on Monday by the Doctors’ Syndicate, which tracks civilian casualties. As of a week ago, the Sudanese Health Ministry had counted at least 530 people killed, including civilians and combatants, with another 4,500 wounded, but those figures haven’t been updated since.
Since Saturday, the United States has been conducting daily evacuation of American civilians from Sudan. On Monday, the third U.S.-assisted evacuation convoy of American citizens and permanent U.S. residents arrived in Port Sudan on Sudan’s Red Sea coast.
The U.S. had “a handful” of consular officials at the Sudanese port, helping the American civilians get onto ferries or Saudi or U.S. Navy ships to get to safety across the Red Sea in Saudi Arabia.
The State Department said Monday it has helped roughly 700 people — U.S. citizens or permanent residents, or local workers at the now-shuttered U.S. Embassy — out on the bus convoys. It says it has assisted about another 1,000 Americans in getting out of Sudan.
Explosions and gunfire echoed in parts of Khartoum and its neighboring city, Omdurman, on Monday, residents said, hours after the two sides committed to the 72-hour cease-fire extension.
Atiya Abdalla Atiya, Secretary of the Doctors’ Syndicate, said there was fighting early Monday in different area s in Khartoum, including the military’s headquarters, the Republican Palace, and the international airport. There were also clashes in the upscale neighborhood of Kafouri, he said.
Many Khartoum hospitals remained out of service or inaccessible because of the fighting, while others have been occupied by the warring factions, particularly the RSF, he said.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi warned Monday of many more fleeing Sudan. “If violence doesn’t stop we will see more people forced to flee Sudan seeking safety,” he wrote on Twitter.
The eruption of fighting capped months of worsening Burhan-Dagalo disputes as the international community tried to work out a deal for establishing civilian rule.
“We all saw the enormous tensions,” Perthes said. “Our efforts to de-escalate did not succeed.” He said he had been warning repeatedly that “any single spark” could cause the power struggle to explode.
Perthes warned of a “major humanitarian crisis” as people were running out of food and fresh water in Khartoum and the fighting damaged water systems.
A real cease-fire is vital to getting access to residents who are trapped in their homes or injured, he said. “If we don’t get a stable cease-fire … the humanitarian situation will be even worse.”
Disclaimer: This report is auto generated from the AP NEWS Diplomat Times holds no responsibility for its content.
Associated Press writers Nick El Hajj in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report