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Sudan’s warring sides to meet for talks in Saudi Arabia

Smoke is rising over Khartoum, Sudan, amid fierce fighting between two military groups. File photo by AP)

Representatives from Sudan’s army and the rival paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) are set to meet in the Saudi city of Jeddah for their first direct talks, amid international efforts to end the ongoing conflict in Africa's third-largest country by area.

In a post on his Twitter account on Saturday, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan confirmed the direct talks between Sudan’s warring sides, expressing hope that both sides would "engage in dialogue that will lead to the end of the conflict."

Earlier in the day, Saudi Arabia and the United States welcomed the start of the “pre-negotiation talks” between the Sudanese army and the RSF in a joint statement, urging them to actively engage in the talks toward a ceasefire and an end to the conflict.

This is while both sides have made it clear they would only discuss a humanitarian truce, not negotiate an end to the war. 

Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, the RSF commander commonly known as Hemeti, welcomed the talks as he confirmed his group’s attendance, hoping that the negotiations would achieve their intended aim of securing safe passage for civilians.

He also affirmed "the need to reach a civilian transitional government that... achieves the aspirations of our people.”

Sudan's army also confirmed that it has sent envoys to the Red Sea port city to discuss "details of the truce in the process of being extended" with the RSF.

However, Dafallah Al-Haj Ali, Sudan's undersecretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the army would not sit down directly with any delegation that the "rebellious" RSF might send.

Fighting erupted between Sudan's army and the RSF on April 15. The latest figures show the fighting has killed about 700 people so far. Multiple truces have been reached, but none has been respected.

Thousands have also been wounded in the fighting, which has displaced tens of thousands of people, including Sudanese and citizens from neighboring countries, who have fled, including to Egypt, Chad, and South Sudan.

International organizations have, however, warned that millions of Sudanese are unable to flee and are trying to survive acute shortages of water, food, medicines, and fuel as well as power and internet blackouts.

According to experts, the situation in Sudan could worsen at any moment, with intense violence in the days to come.

Meanwhile, airstrikes have rocked Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, hours before the warring parties meet in Saudi Arabia.  

Witnesses said warplanes pounded various parts of the city, with telecommunications company MTN saying all of its services had been interrupted.

Witnesses also reported gun clashes and airstrikes over residential areas.

Mediation efforts have multiplied since the conflict began, but the army said Wednesday it favored those of the East African regional bloc IGAD, because it wanted “African solutions to the continent's issues.”

However, it was ultimately the US-Saudi initiative that gained leverage as Sudan had been suspended from the African Union since the 2021 coup.

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