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Sudan peace talks resume in Jeddah with limited goals

This combination of pictures shows army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (L) and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces commander, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo (R)
— Riyadh (AFP)

Sudan's warring parties resumed talks in Saudi Arabia on Thursday aimed at ending a conflict that has raged for over six months and left thousands dead, the Saudi foreign ministry said.

Since April, the war between regular forces loyal to army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), commanded by his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, has killed more than 9,000 people and displaced over 5.6 million.

"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia welcomes the resumption of talks between representatives of the Sudanese Armed Forces and representatives of the Rapid Support Forces in the city of Jeddah," a statement said.

Both sides announced Wednesday they had accepted an invitation to resume US- and Saudi-brokered negotiations in Jeddah.

Previous mediation attempts have yielded only brief truces, and even those were systematically violated.

The latest talks are being held "in partnership" with a representative of the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the East African regional bloc led by close US partner Kenya, the Saudi statement said.

The statement called on negotiators to abide by an earlier agreement announced on May 11 to protect civilians and a short-term ceasefire deal signed on May 20.

"The kingdom affirms its keenness on unity of ranks... to stop the bloodshed and alleviate the suffering of the Sudanese people," the statement said.

Riyadh hopes for "a political agreement under which security, stability and prosperity will be achieved for Sudan and its brotherly people".

- Fighting 'not done' -

Before the first round of talks in Jeddah were suspended, mediators had grown increasingly frustrated with both sides' reluctance to work towards a sustained truce.

Analysts believed that Burhan and Daglo had opted for a war of attrition instead, hoping to extract greater concessions at the negotiating table later.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who helped mediate at the start of the crisis, finalised details of the new talks during a recent stop in Saudi Arabia as part of a tour largely devoted to the Israel-Hamas war, US officials said this week.

The talks will aim for a ceasefire but it is premature to discuss a lasting political solution, the officials said.

"The new round will focus on ensuring unhindered humanitarian access and achieving ceasefires and other confidence-building measures," a State Department official said on condition of anonymity.

Alan Boswell, Horn of Africa project director for International Crisis Group, said it had "taken far too long" to get talks going again.

"Now we need to see a much higher level of diplomacy within the region if we want to see a serious push for a ceasefire," he said.

"My concern is that the talks will continue to flail about unsuccessfully on humanitarian issues before collapsing again."

There is little reason to be optimistic, said Kholood Khair, founder of the Khartoum-based think tank Confluence Advisory.

The decision to revive talks is based on the assumption that the army and the RSF "are done fighting due to the impending state collapse, suffering and misery," she said on X, formerly Twitter.

"They are not yet done. Despite rhetoric by (the army) and RSF, neither care about the human costs of waging this war."

As talks resumed on Thursday, witnesses again reported fighting in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state.

The RSF meanwhile announced that its fighters had seized "complete control" of army positions in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur and Sudan's second most populous city.