US, Saudi Arabia call for warring sides in Sudan to extend 'imperfect' cease-fire
People line up in front of a bakery during a cease-fire in Khartoum, Sudan, Saturday, May 27, 2023. Saudi Arabia and the United States say the warring parties in Sudan are adhering better to a week-long cease-fire after days of fighting. (AP Photo/Marwan Ali)
Samy Magdy, The Associated Press
Published Sunday, May 28, 2023 10:30AM EDT
CAIRO (AP) — The United States and Saudi Arabia called on warring sides in Sudan to extend a fragile cease-fire due to expire Monday, as weeks of fighting reached a stalemate in the capital and elsewhere in the African country.
The Sudanese army and a rival paramilitary force, battling for control of Sudan since mid-April, had agreed last week to the weeklong truce, brokered by the U.S. and the Saudis. However, the cease-fire, like others before it, did not stop the fighting in the capital of Khartoum and elsewhere in the country.
In a joint statement early Sunday, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia called for an extension of the current truce which expires at 9:45 p.m. local time Monday.
“While imperfect, an extension nonetheless will facilitate the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian assistance to the Sudanese people,” the statement said.
The statement also urged Sudan’s military government and the rival Rapid Support Forces to continue negotiations to reach an agreement on extending the cease-fire.
The fighting broke out in mid-April between the military and the powerful RSF. Both military chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan and RSF leader Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo led the 2021 coup that removed the Western-backed government of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.
It turned Khartoum and the adjacent city of Omdurman into a battleground. The clashes also spread elsewhere in the country, including the war-wracked Darfur region.
The conflict has killed hundreds of people, wounded thousands and pushed the country to near collapse. It forced more than 1.3 million out of their homes to safer areas inside Sudan, or to neighboring nations.
Residents reported renewed sporadic clashes Sunday in parts of Omdurman, where the army’s aircraft were seen flying over the city. Fighting was also reported in al-Fasher, the provincial capital of North Darfur.
The conflict has come to a stalemate as neither side has been able to deliver a decisive blow to the other after more than five weeks of fighting.
In the first two weeks of the war, army airstrikes targeted RSF camps in and outside the capital, stripping the paramilitary force from its bases. That forced the RSF to deploy in densely populated areas, where they seized people’s houses and other property, and are using them as cover against the military’s airstrikes.
The detention of Dr. Alaa Eldin Awad Nogoud, a prominent surgeon and pro-democracy activist, in Omdurman caused an uproar in the country, with medical and rights groups in and outside of Sudan demanding his release.
A group of armed men stormed Nogoud’s home Sunday and detained him, according to the Sudan Doctors’ Syndicate. He was taken to an unknown location, it said.
The Forces of Freedom and Change, the pro-democracy coalition, said the armed men claimed they were members of the military and the intelligence service. It said Nogoud’s detention was part of a campaign targeting pro-democracy activists, and urged his immediate release.
The development came after Nogoud told a television station last week that the military seized medical aid provided by the World Health Organization and stored it at a military hospital in Omdurman, according to local media.
He said that doctors were denied access to the facility when they demanded a share in the aid to other hospitals. They were told that permission was needed first to get access, he said.
A spokesman for the military declined to comment Sunday.
The U.S.-Saudi statement came two days after Burhan demanded in a letter to the U.N. secretary-general that the U.N. envoy to his country be removed, The U.N. chief was “shocked” by the letter, a spokesman said.
The envoy, Volker Perthes, has been a key mediator in Sudan, first during the country’s fitful attempts to transition to democracy and then during efforts to end the current fighting.
Burhan’s letter came after Perthes accused the warring parties of disregarding the laws of war by attacking homes, shops, places of worship and water and electricity installations.
In his briefing to the U.N. Security Council last week, Perthes blamed the leaders of the military and the RSF for the war, saying that they have chosen to “settle their unresolved conflict on the battlefield rather than at the table.”
Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates contributed.