Talks between the Sudan’s main army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces [RSF] in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, have made progress and an agreement on a ceasefire is expected soon, a mediation source told the Reuters news agency.
Envoys from the warring generals [Abdel Fattah al Burhan and Mohamed Hemdan Daglo] have been meeting since Saturday in Jeddah for “pre-negotiation talks” with the participation of the United States.
Negotiations aim to secure an effective truce and allow access for aid workers and supplies after repeated ceasefire announcements failed to stop the fighting.
After days of no apparent movement, a mediation source told the Reuters on Wednesday that the negotiations had made progress and a ceasefire agreement was expected soon.
A second source familiar with the talks said a deal was close. Talks continued late into the night.
They are very narrowly focused “first on securing agreement on a declaration of humanitarian principles and then getting a ceasefire that is long enough to facilitate the steady delivery of badly needed services,” said Victoria Nuland, the State Department’s number three official.
“I talked to our negotiators this morning who are cautiously optimistic,” she told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
During the fighting, multiple ceasefires have been declared and flouted, including a week-long truce which South Sudan last week said had been “in principle” agreed until May 11.
More than 750 people have been killed in the fighting and more than 5,000 wounded, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project.
In El Obeid, the North Kordofan state capital about 350 kilometres southwest of capital Khartoum, residents on Wednesday also reported fighting and explosions.
More than 700,000 people are now internally displaced by battles that began on April 15, and another 150,000 have fled the country, UN agencies said this week.
An average of 1,000 are registered every day by the International Organization for Migration at the dusty, sun-scorched Ethiopian border town of Metema.
Outside of Khartoum, the long-troubled Darfur region bordering Chad has seen some of the worst unrest.
“More than 250,000 people have been displaced in Darfur, where armed groups kill and attack civilians, loot premises and trucks of aid workers,” the Islamic Relief aid group reported.
The UN World Food Programme said that up to 2.5 million more Sudanese were expected to fall into hunger in the coming months because of the conflict, raising the number of people suffering acute food insecurity to 19 million.
Conflicts are not new to Sudan, a country that sits at a strategic crossroad between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and the volatile Sahel region, although most unrest in the past occurred in remote areas.
The United Nations has projected that five million additional people will need emergency assistance inside Sudan while 860,000 are expected to flee to neighbouring states.