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Sudan's Warring Generals To Talk Again

FILE: General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the commander of Sudan's armed forces, left, in Juba on Oct. 14, 2019 and General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, at Khartoum airport on March 2, 2022.

CAIRO - The U.N. Sudan envoy says the country's warring generals have agreed to send representatives for negotiations, potentially in Saudi Arabia. Both the military and the RSF announced late Sunday that the cease-fire would extend a further 72 hours. Still, fighting raged early Monday in Khartoum.

Direct talks, if they take place, would be the first major sign of progress since fighting erupted on April 15 between the army and a rival paramilitary group called the Rapid Support Forces.

For much of the conflict, army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan and RSF commander Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo have appeared determined to fight to the end.

The talks would initially focus on establishing a “stable and reliable” cease-fire monitored by national and international observers, UN Envoy Volker Perthes said, but he warned there were still challenges in holding the negotiations.

Speaking from Port Sudan, Perthes said they still face daunting challenges in getting the two sides to abide by a real halt in fighting where violations are prevented. One possibility was to establish a monitoring mechanism that includes Sudanese and foreign observers, “but that has to be negotiated,” he said.

Talks on entrenching the cease-fire could take place in either Saudi Arabia or South Sudan, he said, adding that the former may be easier logistically since it has close ties to both sides.

But even talks in Saudi Arabia has challenges, he said, since each side needs safe passage through territory of the other to reach talks. "That is very difficult in a situation where there is a lack of trust,” he said.

Meanwhile, Explosions and gunfire echoed in parts of Khartoum and its neighboring city, Omdurman, on Monday, residents said, hours after the two sides committed to the 72-hour cease-fire extension.

A string of temporary truces over the past week has eased fighting only in some areas, but in others fierce battles have continued to drive civilians from their homes and push the country into disaster.

A real cease-fire is vital to getting access to residents who are trapped in their homes or injured, Perthes said. “If we don’t get a stable cease fire, then it means that the humanitarian situation will be even worse.”

He also warned the fighting could pull in other armed factions in a country where multiple groups have fought several civil wars over the past decade. “And that could transform into a broader confrontation between different groups and communities and militias in the country,” he said.