Sudan talks resume in Saudi Arabia as battle rages in Khartoum

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By Webdesk

Khartoum residents have described fierce fighting with fighters roaming the streets and little sign that Sudan’s warring factions are respecting an agreement to protect civilians ahead of ceasefire negotiations to begin in Sunday. Saudi Arabia to resume.

Fighting has rocked Khartoum and neighboring areas, as well as Geneina in the Darfur region, since the warring army and paramilitary forces of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) agreed on a “statement of principles” on Thursday.

“It was much worse this morning than the past two days. You could clearly hear the tanks and the RSF was patrolling the streets more than usual,” Hani Ahmed, 28, told Reuters news agency.

The conflict that erupted a month ago has killed hundreds of people, sent more than 200,000 to neighboring states, displaced another 700,000 within the country, and threatens to attract outside powers and destabilize the region.

The two sides have fought their way through previous ceasefires and have shown no willingness to compromise. While the RSF has pledged to abide by Thursday’s agreement, the military has yet to comment.

Neither side seems capable of winning a quick victory, with the military calling on air power, but the RSF dug into residential areas across the capital.

“We only see the military in the air, but in terms of personal contact, we only see the RSF. They’re the ones on the ground,’ Ahmed said.

For civilians, the conflict has unleashed a nightmare of bombings, indiscriminate gunfire, home invasions and looting, amid flickering power supplies, shortages of water and food, and little chance of medical attention for injuries.

“Our neighborhood is now completely under the control of the RSF. They loot and harass people and roam, always armed, taking shelter wherever they want,” said Duaa Tariq, 30, an art curator in Khartoum.

Tariq told Reuters she hoped talks in Jeddah could lead to a ceasefire, but had doubts, adding: “We can’t really trust either side because they have no control over their soldiers on the ground. “

Map of clashes between SAF and RSF and displacement of people internally and across borders.

In Omdurman, the capital’s sister city, “houses tremble from the force of explosions,” a witness told AFP news agency on Saturday, reporting armed clashes.

Representatives of both generals have been in the Saudi city of Jeddah for a week for talks aimed “to protect Sudan from any escalation that will lead to a humanitarian catastrophe,” AFP quoted a Saudi diplomat on condition of anonymity.

The resumed talks in Jeddah will begin by discussing ways to implement the existing agreement and then move to a lasting ceasefire that could pave the way for civilian rule, officials said.

Saudi Arabia has invited army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan to attend the Arab League summit in Jeddah on May 19, a senior Saudi diplomat said, but he will not leave Sudan for security reasons, two other diplomats in the Gulf said.

Al-Burhan was invited because he heads the Sovereign Council of Sudan, in which his rival, RSF chief Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Hemedti, is a deputy.

Saudi Arabia has had close ties to both men since the army and RSF sent troops to help the Saudi-led coalition in its war against Houthi forces in Yemen.

Some of the worst fighting has taken place in Darfur, where a war has been raging since 2003, killing 300,000 people and displacing 2.5 million people.

The Darfur Bar Association, a local rights group, said at least 77 people were killed in Geneina, where fighting flared Friday after a two-week lull.

“Armed groups on motorcycles and RSF vehicles attacked on Friday and continue to kill, loot, arson and terror,” the group said.

The RSF has denied leaving its positions in Darfur, blaming the fighting there on the army and loyalists of former president Omar al-Bashir, who was ousted in 2019, saying they had armed civilians.

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