The United Nations has warned Sudan is on the brink of a “full-scale civil war”, as Egypt said it would host a summit on July 13 to discuss ways to end a 12-week conflict between rival Sudanese military factions.
The summit in Cairo on Thursday will aim to “develop effective mechanisms” with neighbouring states to settle the conflict peacefully, in coordination with other regional or international efforts, Egypt’s presidency said in a statement on Sunday.
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Diplomatic efforts to halt fighting between Sudan’s army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary have so far proved ineffective, with competing initiatives creating confusion over how the warring parties might be brought to negotiate.
Neither Egypt, which is seen as the Sudanese army’s most important foreign ally, nor the United Arab Emirates, which has had close ties to the RSF, have so far played a prominent public role.
The two countries were also not involved in talks in Jeddah led by the United States and Saudi Arabia that adjourned last month after failing to secure a lasting ceasefire.
Sudanese delegations, including from civilian parties that shared power with the army and RSF after the overthrow of former President Omar al-Bashir four years ago, are expected to meet on Monday in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa for exploratory talks.
The initiative came amid clashes on Sunday between the army and the RSF in El Obeid, southwest of Khartoum, as well as in the south of the capital, residents said.
Sudan’s health ministry on Saturday said a strike by fighter jets in Omdurman, part of Sudan’s wider capital, left 22 people dead.
The RSF blamed the military for the attack. The army denied responsibility for the strike, saying the RSF had bombarded residential areas from the ground at times when fighter jets were in the sky before falsely accusing the army of causing civilian casualties.
The army has depended largely on air strikes and heavy artillery to try to push back RSF troops spread across Khartoum, Omdurman and Khartoum North, the three cities that make up the capital around the confluence of the Nile.
Violence has also flared in other parts of Sudan including the western region of Darfur, where residents say militias from Arab tribes along with the RSF have targeted civilians on an ethnic basis, raising fears of a repeat of the mass atrocities seen in the region after 2003.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sunday condemned the air strike on Omdurman, which he said “reportedly killed at least 22 people” and wounded dozens, his deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said in a statement.
Guterres said he remained “deeply concerned that the ongoing war between the armed forces has pushed Sudan to the brink of a full-scale civil war, potentially destabilising the entire region.”
The fighting that erupted on April 15 in Sudan’s capital Khartoum has driven more than 2.9 million people from their homes, including almost 700,000 who have fled to neighbouring countries, many of which are struggling with poverty and the impact of their own internal conflicts.
Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, reporting from a refugee camp in Adre, on the Sudan-Chad border, said many families were not eating more than one meal a day.
“Cases of malnutrition are on the rise in camps in eastern Chad and other parts of Chad where Sudanese refugees have moved to,” Idris said.
By the end of June, a total of 36,423 refugees had been relocated to seven existing camps in Chad and to two newly established camps, said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
UNHCR said it was preparing for the possible arrival of as many as 245,000 refugees by the end of the year due to the ongoing violence.