Sudan civil war: leaders to meet in Paris in bid to relaunch talks for a ceasefire

Talks in France to draw together ministers after only 5% of a UN appeal for the war-ravaged country was met so far

Children carry packs of humanitarian aid at a school housing people displaced by war, near the eastern city of Gedaref, Sudan. AFP
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European, Arab and African foreign affairs ministers are scheduled to meet in Paris on Monday to relaunch peace talks aimed at ending the devastating year-long Sudanese civil war.

The international community is also intensifying pressure on Sudan's warring parties to allow entry to aid for the starving population.

EU, German and French chief diplomats will preside over a political meeting, followed by a pledging conference, in an attempt to highlight the urgent needs of the Sudanese civilian population in what is being described as a forgotten crisis.

About 18 million people, close to half of Sudan's population, face starvation as a consequence of the conflict pitting Sudan's military, led by Gen Abdel Fattah Burhan, against Gen Mohamed Dagalo's paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.

Sudan has the highest rate of internal displacement in the world yet only 5 per cent of the UN's February $4.1 billion appeal for Sudan has been met so far.

"Meeting the UN's appeal will be very difficult but we hope to make a real difference on Monday," a French diplomat told reporters.

"The second goal will be to facilitate access and pressure both sides to allow humanitarians to work."

The delivery of humanitarian assistance is being hampered by difficulties in obtaining visas from the de facto government and the need for people and cargo to obtain permits to travel through the country to the areas most in need. They include the capital Khartoum and south-western Darfur.

The initial intent of organisers was only to hold a pledging conference but the reality on the ground made it apparent that a political discussion would also be necessary to ensure that more aid be allowed into the country, French diplomatic sources said.

Foreign Affairs Ministers Stephane Sejourne of France and Annalena Baerbock of Germany, as well as top EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, have invited their counterparts from Libya, Kenya, Djibouti, Chad, South Sudan, Ethiopia, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Norway, the UK and US.

International organisations including the UN, the Arab League, the African Union and the IGAD - an intergovernmental trade authority headquartered in Djibouti - will also be present.

Participants are expected to issue a declaration of principle after a closed-door political discussion to reaffirm their commitment to "silence the guns and to achieve a ceasefire," said the French diplomat.

Many are involved in mediation efforts which have so far failed in securing a ceasefire. A US-Saudi brokered agreement on a short term ceasefire collapsed shortly after the start of the civil war last year.

"The idea is not to launch a new mediation effort but to help co-ordinate the existing ones," a second French diplomatic source told The National.

The warring parties have not been invited but more than 40 representatives of Sudanese civil society - journalists, religious leaders, activists and business people - will hold a parallel event at an Arab cultural institute in the centre of Paris, the Institut du Monde Arabe.

"The objective is to allow them to have a space to meet to talk about the peace process and the post-war period that we all hope for" in the near future, the French diplomat said.

They will also be invited to the closure of the pledging event, during which Mr Borrell will be replaced by European Commissioner for humanitarian aid Janez Lenarcic.

Organisers have not given a figure of how much money they want to raise for Sudan but France is expected to pledge more than it did in 2023 - €55 million ($59 million). The UK last month pledged to double its support to $112 million.

This year, the EU has so far pledged €72 million for Sudan and €46 million for neighbouring countries.

"We are ready to scale up with the support of budgetary authorities," a representative of Mr Lenarcic's office told the European Parliament this week.

Updated: April 14, 2024, 9:47 AM