Jeddah talks resume as fighting in Sudanese capital intensifies

Volunteers of the Sudanese Red Crescent Society recovering bodies in Khartoum. The Red Cross pleaded for unimpeded humanitarian access in Sudan (ICRC Sudan)

JEDDAH – May 15, 2023

The Jeddah negotiations between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) are said to have resumed yesterday, three days after a declaration was signed on civilian protection. Heavy battles continued in and around Khartoum this weekend.

The new round is supposed to discuss the details of the military forces’ evacuation of hospitals and government-led service facilities, after previously agreeing on allowing safe escape routes and humanitarian aid for civilians in Sudan.

Battles continued in and around Khartoum this weekend and SAF warplanes targeted RSF sites in Omdurman, despite the two parties signing a declaration of principles in the Saudi city of Jeddah on Thursday.

Humanitarian access and safe corridors have been pleaded for by many international aid organisations. On the day the declaration was signed, the International Committee of the Red Cross in Sudan (ICRC Sudan) urged for “unimpeded Humanitarian Access to help all affected people in Sudan”.

It explained that the ICRC Sudan is providing support to Sudanese Red Crescent Society volunteers in recovering human remains in Khartoum for identification and proper burial. “Security guarantees are crucial in facilitating this activity.”

As fighting intensified in the past few days, the new declaration is already threatened in its first days.

Resumption of talks

Several news outlets reported that the Jeddah talks between the SAF and RSF, mediated by the United States of America and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, are continuing. The talks aim to reach a ceasefire agreement for roughly 10 days under USA-Saudi monitoring before negotiating on a permanent cessation of hostilities.

The talks were due to resume yesterday but not much is known about how they are progressing. The Jeddah negotiations have been criticised for being ‘secretive’ and for not including civilian parties.

Two days ago, Reuters interviewed a senior Saudi diplomat who said that Saudi Arabia also invited Chairman of Sudan’s Sovereignty Council Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, also Commander of the SAF, to the upcoming Arab League summit, to be held in Jeddah on May 19.

Two other Gulf state diplomats, however, told the news outlet that El Burhan is “not expected to leave Sudan for security reasons”.

Since the SAF and RSF sent troops to support the Saudi-led coalition in the war in Yemen, Saudi Arabia has had close ties to both El Burhan and RSF Commander Mohamed ‘Hemedti’ Dagalo.

A poster circulating on social media (social media)

International diplomacy

Both the USA and Saudi Arabia have previously been accused of using the talks to demonstrate their own diplomatic power, rather than prioritising finding a sustainable and lasting solution.

“The US and Saudi Arabia continue to keep the process to themselves and appear unwilling to engage or coordinate with other regional and international actors involved in the situation,” Sudanese politician Amgad Fareid El Tayeb wrote for The Africa Report last week.

“They are evidently more concerned with having full ownership of the process rather than its actual success.”

‘They are evidently more concerned with having full ownership of the process rather than its actual success’

In an article published today, Giorgio Cafiero wrote for Al Jazeera: “Regardless of the results, holding these talks indicates that Saudi Arabia is trying to demonstrate its ability to play a leading diplomatic role in the Arab world after years of a sullied global image caused by the war in Yemen.”

US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee, who also headed the US delegation to the Jeddah talks, is currently visiting Addis Ababa to hold talks on ending the conflict in Sudan with the African Union, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and international partners.

According to African diplomatic sources, Phee is seeking to unify the position of international partners on the Sudanese crisis and will brief the African Union and IGAD on the US-Saudi efforts in Jeddah.

The US official now seeks to coordinate work with African partners to provide a roadmap for the upcoming negotiations between the two parties.