Sudan’s warring factions have agreed in principle to a seven-day ceasefire from Thursday, neighbouring South Sudan announced, as more air raids and shooting in the Khartoum region disrupted the latest short-term truce.
A statement released on Tuesday by the foreign ministry of South Sudan, which had offered to mediate in the conflict, said its President Salva Kiir stressed the importance of a longer truce and of naming envoys to peace talks, to which both sides had agreed.
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The credibility of the reported May 4-11 deal ceasefire deal between Sudanese army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and paramilitary Rapid Support forces (RSF) leader General Mohamed Hamdan “Hemedti” Dagalo was unclear, given the rampant violations that undermined previous agreements running from 24 to 72 hours.
“Previously, we have had a three-day ceasefire followed by another three-day ceasefire, which was followed by an extension of the three-day ceasefire. This one is supposed to last for seven days. Both sides have agreed that they will have a ceasefire and that they will not fire unless they are fired at or unless there are military movements. All ceasefires have been conditional,” Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting Khartoum, said.
“The two sides say they have agreed to hold talks but we have repeatedly heard from the army that there are conditions set for these talks to happen. The Rapid Support Forces has also said the same,” Morgan added.
Sudan’s war has forced 100,000 people to flee over its borders and fighting, now its third week, is creating a humanitarian crisis, UN officials said earlier on Tuesday.
The conflict risks developing into a broader disaster as Sudan’s neighbours deal with a refugee crunch and fighting hampers aid deliveries in a nation where two-thirds of the people already rely on some outside assistance.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said Cairo would provide support for dialogue in Sudan between the rival factions, but was also “being careful about not interfering in their domestic matters”.
“The entire region could be affected,” he said in an interview with a Japanese newspaper on Tuesday, as an envoy from Sudan’s army chief, who leads one of the warring sides, met Egyptian officials in Cairo.
Humanitarian agencies must be given access to help people in Sudan, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said on Tuesday. United Nations officials had said UN aid chief Martin Griffiths aimed to visit Sudan on Tuesday but the timing was still to be confirmed.
The UN World Food Programme said on Monday it was resuming work in the safer parts of the country after a pause earlier in the conflict, in which some WFP staff were killed.
“The risk is that this is not just going to be a Sudan crisis, it’s going to be a regional crisis,” said Michael Dunford, the WFP’s East Africa director.
The commanders of the army and RSF, who had shared power as part of an internationally backed transition towards free elections and civilian government, have shown no sign of backing down, yet neither seems able to secure a quick victory.
That has raised the spectre of a prolonged conflict that could draw in outside powers.
Meanwhile on Tuesday, UK said British nationals who wanted to leave Sudan should go to Port Sudan where additional flights are expected to leave the country on May 3.
“British nationals still wishing to leave the country should go to the Coral Hotel in port Sudan by 1000 Sudan time tomorrow,” the government said in a statement.