CAIRO -- Saudi Arabia and the United States urged Sudan’s warring parties Sunday to agree to and “effectively implement” a new cease-fire as fighting showed no signs of abating in the northeastern African nation.
Sudan descended into chaos after fighting broke out in mid-April between the military, led by Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, commanded by Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo.
For weeks, Saudi Arabia and the United States have been mediating between the warring parties. On May 21, both countries successfully brokered a temporary cease-fire agreement to help with the delivery of much-needed humanitarian aid to the war-torn country. Their efforts, however, were dealt a blow when the military announced on Wednesday it would no longer participate in the cease-fire talks held in the Saudi coastal city of Jeddah.
Following the military’s decision, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia said they were suspending the talks “as a result of repeated serious violations of the short-term cease-fire." President Joe Biden’s administration imposed sanctions against key Sudanese defense companies run by the military and the RSF and people who “perpetuate violence” in Sudan.
In their statement on Sunday, Washington and Riyad said they continued to engage representatives of the military and the RSF who remained in Jeddah. They urged the Sudanese warring sides to agree to and implement a new cease-fire following the latest one which expired late Saturday. The aim is to eventually establish a permanent cessation of hostilities in the war-wrecked country, they said.
The statement said the discussions focused on “facilitating humanitarian assistance" and reaching an agreement on "near-term steps the parties must take” before resuming the talks.
The fighting has turned the capital, Khartoum, and other urban areas into battlefields, resulting in widespread looting and destruction of residential areas across the country. The conflict has also displaced more than 1.65 million people who fled to safer areas in Sudan and neighboring countries.
Aid groups’ offices and warehouses, health care facilities and other civilian infrastructure have been attacked and looted, including most recently the warehouses of the World Food Program in the city of Obeid in North Kordofan on Jan. 1.
There have been reports of sexual violence, including the rape of women and girls in Khartoum and the western Darfur region, which have seen some of the worst fighting in the conflict. Almost all reported cases of sexual attacks were blamed on the RSF, which didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment.
Residents reported intense fighting over the past two days in Khartoum and its neighboring cities of Omdurman and Bahri.
Shelling and gunfire were heard early Sunday in parts of Omdurman, as the military’s aircraft bombed RSF positions in the capital area.
Fighting was also reported in the northern part of the Darfur region, which has witnessed some of the worst battles since the fighting began on April 15.
The clashes intensified between the military and the RSF in the town of Kutum in North Darfur province. Residents reported that the town’s market, many houses, and a camp for displaced people were burned down. There were reports of dozens of casualties among civilians.
Darfur Gov. Mini Arko Minawi said on Twitter on Sunday that Kutum residents have experienced “terrible violations” including killings and looting.
Minawi, a rebel leader who was named governor of the western region as part of a 2020 peace deal, declared Darfur a “disaster area." He urged the international community to send humanitarian assistance “by all available means to save people in the stricken region.”