CAIRO — Sudan’s military has suspended its participation in talks with a paramilitary force it’s been battling for weeks for control of the northeastern African country, a military spokesman said Wednesday.
The development was a blow to the United States and Saudi Arabia which have mediating between the two sides whose conflict has plunged Sudan into chaos.
Brig. Nabil Abdalla, a spokesman for the Sudanese armed forces, told The Associated Press that the move is a protest to the Rapid Support Forces’ “repeated violations” of the humanitarian cease-fire, including their continued occupation of hospitals and other civilian infrastructure in the capital, Khartoum.
Abdalla said the military wants to ensure that the truce’s terms “be fully implemented” before discussing further steps. He did not elaborate.
There was no immediate comment from Saudi Arabia or the United States, which have been brokering talks between the warring sides. So far, there have been seven declared cease-fires, all of which have been violated to some extent.
Responding to the military’s move, the RSF said it “unconditionally backs the Saudi-U.S. initiative.”
Two other senior military officials said the army sent a letter to the Saudi and American mediators detailing what they called the RSF violations. They said the military delegation was still in the venue of the talks in the Saudi coastal city of Jeddah.
One of the officials said the decision was prompted by the mediators’ efforts to move to the next stage of negotiations without “fully implementing the terms” of the humanitarian cease-fire. That stage includes a long-term cease-fire and engaging in negotiations to settle the disputes between the two sides, he said.
Both senior officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief media.
The military’s move came two days after the sides agreed to extend the shaky cease-fire for more five days, following Washington and Riyadh signaled impatience with persistent truce violations.
In a joint statement Sunday, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia called out both warring sides for specific breaches of a week-long truce rather than issue another general appeal to respect agreements.
The statement said the military continued to carry out airstrikes, while the RSF was still occupying people’s homes and seizing properties. Fuel, money, aid supplies and vehicles belonging to a humanitarian convoy were stolen, with theft occurring both in areas controlled by the military and by the RSF, it added.
Sudan descended into chaos after fighting erupted in mid-April between the military, led by Gen. Abdel- Fattah Burhan, and the RSF, commanded by Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo.
The fighting has killed at least 866 civilians and wounded thousands more, according to the Sudan Doctors’ Syndicate, which tracks civilian casualties. The toll could be much higher, the medical group said.
The conflict has turned the capital, Khartoum, and other urban areas into battlefields, forcing nearly 1.4 million people to flee their homes to safer areas inside Sudan or crossing into neighboring countries.
Early on, foreign governments raced to evacuate their diplomats and nationals as thousands of foreign residents scrambled to get out of the African nation.
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