No sign Sudan warring parties ready to ‘seriously negotiate’: UN
UN envoy to Sudan says that both sides in the conflict believe that ‘a military victory over the other is possible’.
There are no signs that the warring parties in Sudan are ready to seriously negotiate an end to fighting, the UN envoy to the country has said, as a shaky 72-hour ceasefire was partially holding, though armed clashes were reported in strategic locations in the capital Khartoum and elsewhere.
UN envoy to Sudan Volker Perthes told a UN Security Council meeting in New York City on Tuesday that both sides in the conflict believe that they can secure a victory.
“There is yet no unequivocal sign that either is ready to seriously negotiate, suggesting that both think that securing a military victory over the other is possible,” Perthes said.
“This is a miscalculation,” he said, speaking via video link from Port Sudan in the country’s east, where the UN and others have relocated some of their personnel.
Commenting on the temporary and shaky truce between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) which went into effect on Tuesday, Perthes said that it was “holding in some parts so far”, but fighting had continued in key areas.
“We also hear continuing reports of fighting and movement of troops,” he said.
Perthes also denounced what he described as the “disregard for the laws and norms of war” among the combatants who have turned Khartoum into a war zone since battles broke out on April 15 that have now left hundreds dead, thousands wounded, and seen civilian infrastructure attacked, including hospitals.
“Both of the warring parties have fought with disregard for the laws and norms of war, attacking densely populated areas, with little consideration for civilians, for hospitals, or even for vehicles transferring the wounded and sick,” the UN envoy said.
The fighting, Perthes said, “has created a humanitarian catastrophe with civilians bearing the brunt“.
Residential areas in Khartoum have been turned into battlefields where gun and tank fire, air attacks and artillery shelling have killed at least 459 people, wounded more than 4,000, cut power and water and limited food distribution in a nation where a third of its 46 million people had already relied on food aid.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the violence and chaos in Sudan as “heartbreaking” and warned the UN meeting on Tuesday that the fighting could spread to other countries in the region.
“Sudan borders seven countries, all of which have either been involved in conflict or seen serious civil unrest over the past decade,” he said.
“The power struggle in Sudan is not only putting that country’s future at risk. It is lighting a fuse that could detonate across borders, causing immense suffering for years, and setting development back by decades.”
Despite the ceasefire, fighting could be heard late on Tuesday with gunfire and explosions reported after nightfall in Omdurman, Khartoum’s sister city across the Nile River, where the army used drones to target RSF positions, a Reuters news agency reporter said.
The army also used drones to try to drive fighters back from a fuel refinery in Bahri, the third city at the confluence of the Blue Nile and White Nile, Reuters reported.
Al Jazeera’s diplomatic correspondent James Bays, reporting from UN headquarters in New York City, said UN Secretary-General Guterres had painted “a very dismal and pessimistic picture” of the situation on the ground in Sudan, particularly with regard to the conflict spreading.
“The Secretary-General again warning that this could spread beyond the borders of Sudan, making it clear that there are seven countries that border Sudan, all of them in recent years have either had unrest or conflict,” Bays said.
“We also heard that in Darfur there are tribes and armed groups who are taking up arms and the real worry that could suck in some of the countries from around the region,” he said.
There was already a humanitarian crisis in the country before the current fighting, Bays said, adding that “the situation is so much worse now” amid the shaky ceasefire.
“The word on the ground about the current ceasefire is that it is very, very patchy, sporadic, and only holding in part,” he added.