Saudi Arabia is to host the first face-to-face talks on Saturday between the warring armies in Sudan, after several ceasefires broke down.
A joint US-Saudi statement welcomed the start of “pre-negotiation talks” in Jeddah between the Sudanese army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). On Friday reports spoke of continuing clashes in Khartoum.
The Sudanese army says the talks aim to address humanitarian issues.
There has been no official RSF comment.
The army confirmed it had sent envoys to Jeddah to engage in the talks, which the UN and aid agencies have been pressing for, faced with a dire humanitarian crisis in Sudan.
Nearly three weeks of heavy fighting have killed hundreds of people and displaced nearly 450,000 civilians. Of that total, the International Organization for Migration says, more than 115,000 have sought refuge in neighbouring countries.
Sudan’s army commander Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan – the de facto Sudanese president – is engaged in a bitter power struggle with RSF leader Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Hemedti.
The statement from the US and Saudi governments said they “urge both parties to take in consideration the interests of the Sudanese nation and its people and actively engage in the talks towards a ceasefire and end to the conflict, which will spare the Sudanese people’s suffering and ensure the availability of humanitarian aid to affected areas”.
The joint statement also expressed hope for “an expanded negotiation process that should include engagement with all Sudanese parties”.
A Unicef spokesman, James Elder, said the conflict’s first 11 days alone had killed an estimated 190 children and wounded 1,700 – and those figures were just from health facilities in Khartoum and Darfur.
“The reality is likely to be much worse,” he said.
The intensity of the fighting has prevented much-needed aid deliveries getting through.
So far Gen Burhan and Hemedti, who led an Arab militia in the brutal Darfur conflict, have shown little readiness to reach a peace settlement.