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Sudan army suspends participation in ceasefire talks

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This picture shows members of Sudan's Rapid Support Forces paramilitary group. (File photo by Reuters)

Sudan’s army has suspended its participation in the Saudi-backed talks with the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces to end months of fighting.

Despite peace efforts, fighting continued unabated in the African country on Wednesday, with the army and the RSF trading blame over truce violations.

Brigadier Nabil Abdalla, a spokesman for the army, said that the decision was taken in light of repeated breaches of ceasefire by the paramilitary group. 

He said the RSF also failed to implement a provision that required their withdrawal from hospitals and residential buildings.

The RSF in a statement accused the army of halting the talks in the Saudi port city of Jeddah so that it could undermine them and of violating the ceasefire by using airpower and heavy artillery to attack its positions.

The African Union (AU) later on Wednesday said the suspension of talks should not discourage further attempts at mediation.

“In difficult negotiations, it is a classic phenomenon that one party suspends or threatens to suspend” its participation, said Mohamed El Hacen Lebatt, chief of staff to the AU Commission president, and its spokesman for the Sudan crisis.

“But that should absolutely not discourage the mediators… the United States and Saudi Arabia, who we support very strongly, from continuing their efforts.”

Until late on Tuesday, intense clashes were reported in Khartoum, with residents reporting intensive fighting in all three of the adjoining cities that make up Sudan’s greater capital around the confluence of the Nile – Khartoum, Omdurman and Khartoum North.

Areas of the capital have been hit by widespread looting and frequent cuts to power and water supplies. Most hospitals have been put out of service.

Some aid agencies, embassies and parts of Sudan’s central government have moved operations to Port Sudan, in Sudan’s Red Sea state, the main shipping hub which has seen little unrest.

The new development comes after US and Saudi mediators on Sunday announced that the warring sides had agreed to extend a humanitarian truce by another five days.

The war has forced nearly 1.4 million people to flee their homes, including more than 350,000 who have crossed into neighboring countries.

More than six weeks into the conflict, the United Nations estimated that more than half the population require aid and protection.

Leaders of the army and the RSF had held the top positions on Sudan’s ruling council since former leader Omar al-Bashir was toppled during a popular uprising in 2019.

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