Representatives from the warring Sudanese armies have arrived in Saudi Arabia for their first direct negotiations.
The “pre-negotiations” talks between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces are due to begin on Saturday in Jeddah. They are sponsored by the United States and Saudi Arabia.
Several ceasefires since the fighting began weeks ago have collapsed.
Both sides said they would discuss a humanitarian truce, but not an end to the conflict.
There has been no word yet on whether the meeting took place or who the representatives from both sides are.
Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan welcomed the representatives of the two parties. He expressed hope that the talks would lead to “an end to the conflict and the return of security and stability to the Republic of Sudan.”
Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, commander of the Rapid Support Forces, said on Twitter that the group appreciates all the efforts made to cease fire and provide aid to the Sudanese people. He also insisted that the RSF is committed to “the transition to a civilian-led government.”
General Dagalo, better known as Hemedti, is engaged in a bitter power struggle with the head of the Sudanese army, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the de facto president of the country.
Saturday’s talks come amid reports of continued clashes in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.
Hundreds of people have been killed and nearly 450,000 civilians displaced since the fighting began. Of this total, more than 115,000 people have sought refuge in neighboring countries, according to the International Organization for Migration.
A joint US-Saudi statement urged “the two parties to take into account the interests of the Sudanese nation and its people and to engage actively in talks aimed at a cease-fire and an end to the conflict.”
The first 11 days of conflict alone have killed an estimated 190 children and injured 1,700 – figures from health facilities in Khartoum and Darfur alone, said James Elder, a spokesman for the UN Children’s Agency.
“The reality is likely to be much worse,” he said.
The intensity of the fighting has prevented much needed aid from arriving.
So far, General Burhan and Hemedti, who have led an Arab militia in the brutal Darfur conflict, have shown little willingness to reach a peace settlement.
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