Saudi Arabia and US urge Sudan's warring sides to resume talks

Call follows a day of intense street fighting in parts of Khartoum

Smoke rises above buildings in Khartoum following air strikes by Sudan's military on positions of the rival paramilitary Rapid Support Forces. Reuters
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Saudi Arabia and the US are calling on Sudan's warring sides to resume negotiations and agree a new ceasefire, the Saudi foreign ministry said on Sunday.

In a statement, the ministry said negotiators from the Sudanese army and the rival paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) were still in the Saudi port city of Jeddah, despite the suspension of the talks and the expiry of the latest ceasefire on Saturday.

The statement also called on the two sides to adhere to a declaration dated May 11 in which they pledged to protect civilians and allow humanitarian aid to reach civilians.

“We would like to emphasise the adherence of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States of America to their commitment to the Sudanese people,” it said. “We also call on the two sides to agree to a new ceasefire that they fully implement.”

Saudi and US-sponsored negotiations in Jeddah collapsed last week when the army suspended its participation, arguing that the RSF did not respect any of its provisions. Washington and Riyadh subsequently suspended the negotiations, saying that neither of the warring sides was serious.

The US also slapped sanctions on companies associated with the army and the RSF.

A family tends to their goats in a southern Khartoum neighbourhood on Saturday as fighting between rival Sudanese forces intensified. AFP

The five-day truce that ended on Saturday night was the latest in a string of short-term ceasefires, none of which succeeded in bringing about a cessation of hostilities.

On Sunday, Khartoum residents reported a second consecutive day of heavy fighting, with fighters from both sides battling each other street-to-street in residential neighbourhoods in Khartoum, Omdurman and Bahri. The three are located around the confluences of the Blue and White Niles.

They said a military plane crashed in Omdurman on Sunday, a claim also made by the RSF. There was no word from the army that it had lost one of its aircraft.

The RSF posted footage of its fighters manning anti-aircraft guns while others let off celebratory gunfire from their rifles as an object in the sky above was seen engulfed by white smoke.

Sudan's seven-week conflict is rooted in the army's insistence that the RSF be integrated into the armed forces, as part of an ambitious reform plan designed to ease the military out of politics and install a civilian-led government to steer the Afro-Arab nation until elections are held.

The RSF, whose forerunner is a notorious, government-backed Darfur militia, has long been known to reject its assimilation into the army, preferring to maintain its near-complete autonomy.

The fighting that began in Khartoum on April 15 has displaced 1.2 million people within the country and forced another 400,000 to flee into neighbouring countries, primarily Egypt, Chad and South Sudan.

Egypt, which has received about half those who fled Sudan, said on Friday that it was launching a joint initiative with Qatar to support and help the Sudanese affected by the fighting, especially refugees.

The announcement followed a telephone conversation on Friday between Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and Sheikh Tamim, the Emir of Qatar.

Updated: June 04, 2023, 1:34 PM