Ethiopian leader Abiy Ahmed visits Sudan on mediation mission

Visit comes amid a standoff between military and protesters following a deadly crackdown

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (C-L) arrives at Khartoum international airport on June 7, 2019. Ethiopia's prime minister arrived in Khartoum today seeking to broker talks between the ruling generals and protesters as heavily armed paramilitaries remained deployed in some squares of the Sudanese capital after a deadly crackdown, leaving residents in 'terror'. / AFP / ASHRAF SHAZLY
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Ethiopia's prime minister arrived in Khartoum on Friday to meet the chief of Sudan's ruling military council and civilian representatives following an army crackdown on protesters in which scores of people died and hundreds were wounded.

"Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, together with his delegation, arrived in Khartoum, Sudan, this morning for talks," Mr Abiy's office said on Twitter.

Mr Abiy was met at the airport by generals from the Transitional Military Council that assumed power after the armed forces removed longtime ruler Omar Al Bashir from the presidency in April.

He was expected to hold separate talks with the TMC, headed by Gen Adel Fattah Al Burhan, and with leaders of the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, a coalition of protest groups and political parties.

The two sides had been negotiating for a transition to a civilian-led interim administration but further talks are in doubt after security forces raided a long-running protest camp outside the military headquarters in Khartoum on Monday. The opposition says 113 people were killed in the storming of the camp and a subsequent wider crackdown. The government put the toll at 61 people, including three security personnel.

The opposition has rejected the military's offer to resume talks, calling for those responsible for the killings to be held accountable first.

On Friday, the Arab League urged all sides to avoid actions that would flare the situation further, WAM the UAE state news agency report.

In a statement, Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit called on all Sudanese parties to exert efforts to enable the democratic transition process, without interference from outside players.

The Arab League stands with Sudan and supports its security, stability and national unity, leading to the peaceful transition of power safely while preserving the role played by Sudan in Joint Arab Action System, the Secretary-General said.

The African Union on Thursday suspended Sudan until the establishment of a civilian transitional administration, intensifying global pressure on the military leadership. The United Nations, the US and other countries have condemned the violence against the protesters, while regional powers Saudi Arabia and the UAE have called on both sides to resume negotiations to ensure security and stability in the country.

Mr Abiy, who took office last year and introduced political and economic reforms, has won wide praise for his diplomacy skills, including brokering peace with Ethiopia's neighbour and long-time foe Eritrea.

After Mr Al Bashir was toppled following four months of protests, the Ethiopian prime minister congratulated the Sudanese people for their "resilience in leading change" toward a democratic Sudan. He met Gen Al Burhan during his visit to Addis Ababa last week, during which he committed to "non-interference" in the situation but urged inclusiveness in the political process.

Meanwhile, the UN health agency has voiced concern over the targeting of patients, medical staff and facilities in the military's crackdown.

Security forces are making "incursions into Khartoum hospitals", forcing shutdowns of emergency and health services, the World Health Organisation said on Friday. Five patients and medical workers have been injured.

"These actions represent a total and unacceptable violation of international human rights law and must stop," WHO said.

The agency said tent clinics set up to treat injured protesters had been set on fire and destroyed, medical equipment looted, and healthcare workers assaulted. Rapes of female health workers have also been reported, it said.