G7 urges Sudan ceasefire, Blinken calls generals

General |Author: AFP | April 18, 2023, Tuesday @ 12:43| 2117 views

This picture taken on April 16, 2023, shows Sudanese army soldiers, loyal to army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, inspecting the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) base in the Red Sea city of Port Sudan. Battling fighters in Sudan said they had agreed to an hours-long humanitarian pause, including to evacuate wounded, on the second day of raging urban battles that killed more than 50 civilians including three UN staff and sparking international outcry. (Photo by AFP)

(AFP) - G7 foreign ministers on Tuesday urged warring forces in Sudan to "end hostilities immediately" and return to negotiations, after days of fighting that has killed almost 200 people and wounded 1,800.

A weeks-long power struggle in the north African country exploded into deadly violence Saturday between the forces of two generals who seized power in a 2021 coup: army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

"We urge the parties to end hostilities immediately without pre-conditions," the G7 foreign ministers meeting in Japan said in a statement.

They warned the fighting "threatens the security and safety of Sudanese civilians and undermines efforts to restore Sudan's democratic transition".

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he had spoken with the two generals and "underscored the urgent need for a ceasefire".

"Too many civilian lives have already been lost," Blinken tweeted, adding he had "stressed the importance of ensuring the safety of diplomatic personnel and aid workers".

Following the call, Daglo said in a tweet that the pair had "discussed pressing issues in Sudan", adding he was grateful for the US's "commitment to restoring stability in Sudan".

Blinken also confirmed a US diplomatic convoy had been fired upon on Monday, though those inside were unharmed, in what he called a "reckless" act.

In a separate incident, the European Union's ambassador to Sudan was attacked in his home in Khartoum on Monday, the bloc's top diplomat Josep Borrell said. A spokesperson told AFP the veteran diplomat was "OK" following the assault.

- Terrified residents -

Analysts say the fighting in the capital is unprecedented and could be prolonged, despite regional and global calls for a ceasefire as diplomats mobilise.

Battles have taken place throughout the vast country and there are fears of regional spillover of the conflict that has seen air strikes, artillery and heavy gunfire.

Terrified residents of Khartoum are spending the last and holiest days of Ramadan watching from their windows as tanks roll through the streets, buildings shake and smoke from fires triggered by the fighting hangs in the air.

Those compelled to venture out face queues for bread and petrol at outlets that are not shuttered. Residents are also dealing with power outages.

Volker Perthes, the head of the UN mission to Sudan, told the Security Council in a closed-door session Monday that at least 185 people had been killed and another 1,800 wounded.

"It's a very fluid situation so it's very difficult to say where the balance is shifting to," Perthes told reporters after the meeting.

Medics in Sudan had earlier given a death toll of nearly 100 civilians and "dozens" of fighters from both sides, but the number of casualties was thought to be far higher, with many wounded unable to reach hospitals.

The official doctors' union warned fighting had "heavily damaged" multiple hospitals in Khartoum and other cities, with some completely "out of service".

The World Health Organization warned that several Khartoum hospitals "have run out of blood, transfusion equipment, intravenous fluids and other vital supplies".

In the western region of Darfur, international medical aid organisation Doctors Without Borders (MSF) reported receiving 136 wounded patients at the only hospital in El Fasher still operating in North Darfur state.

"The majority of the wounded are civilians who were caught in the crossfire -- among them are many children," MSF's Cyrus Paye said.

Due to limited surgical capacity, "11 people died from their injuries in the first 48 hours of the conflict".

- Call for talks -

Three UN World Food Programme staff were also among those killed on Saturday in Darfur, where humanitarian missions have had medical and other supplies looted, according to Save the Children and MSF.

A number of organisations have temporarily suspended operations in the country, where one-third of the population needs aid.

"This renewed fighting only aggravates what was already a fragile situation, forcing UN agencies and our humanitarian partners to temporarily shutter many of our more than 250 programmes across Sudan," said UN emergency relief coordinator Martin Griffiths.

Influential northern neighbour Egypt said it had discussed with Saudi Arabia, South Sudan and Djibouti -- all close allies of Sudan -- "the need to make every effort to preserve stability and safety".

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called on the two sides to "return to the negotiating table" and said he was working on the return of Egyptian military "trainers" captured Saturday at an air base by RSF forces.

There are no more civilian flights arriving in Khartoum, where fighting has damaged aircraft.

- Democracy derailed -

On Twitter, Daglo earlier called on the international community to intervene against Burhan, branding him a "radical Islamist who is bombing civilians from the air".

"We will continue to pursue Al-Burhan and bring him to justice," said Daglo, whose RSF and its predecessor the Janjaweed in Darfur have previously been accused of atrocities and war crimes.

Army statements call the RSF "a rebel militia" intent on "engaging near populated areas".

The fighting broke out after bitter disagreements between Burhan and Daglo over the planned integration of the RSF into the regular army -- a key condition for a final deal aimed at ending a crisis since the 2021 coup, which derailed a transition to democracy.

Both claim to be in control of key sites, including the airport and the presidential palace -- none of which could be independently verified.

On Monday, the army resumed broadcasting on state TV.

© Agence France-Presse


Tags: Sudan, politics, ceasefire, Blinken, UN, diplomacy, diplomacy

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