US Hopes To Relaunch Peace Talks To Avert ‘Point of No Return’ In Sudan

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The United States said it hopes for a relaunch of peace talks aimed at ending the conflict in Sudan and opening up humanitarian access soon after Ramadan ends in mid-April, Washington’s newly appointed envoy said on Thursday.

Saudi Arabia and the United States led talks in Jeddah last year to try to reach a truce between Sudan’s army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), but the negotiations faltered amid competing international peace initiatives.

“We need to restart formal talks. We hope that will happen as soon as Ramadan is over,” Tom Perriello, who took up his role as U.S. special envoy to Sudan late last month, told reporters.

“Everybody understands that this crisis is barrelling towards a point of no return, and that means everybody needs to put whatever differences aside and be united in finding a solution to this conflict.”

The army and the RSF began battling each other in mid-April last year as tensions over plans for a new political transition and restructuring of the military erupted into heavy fighting.

The two sides had staged a coup in 2021 that derailed a transition towards elections following the overthrow of autocratic ruler Omar al-Bashir in a popular uprising two years earlier.

The conflict has driven nearly 8.5 million people from their homes creating the world’s biggest displacement crisis, pushed parts of the 49-million population close to famine, and triggered waves of ethnically driven killings and sexual violence in the western region of Darfur.

The army, which has recently regained some ground in the capital, shunned an appeal from the U.N. Security Council for a ceasefire during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

“Every week we wait without a peace deal makes the potential for famine more protracted, and the atrocities that we know that have been documented continue,” Perriello said.

Talks could build off efforts in Jeddah, Manama and Cairo and should involve African leaders, regional bodies and Gulf states, the envoy said.

“This next round of formal talks should be inclusive. But it also has to be people who are truly serious about ending the war,” he said.

Support by regional powers for rival factions in Sudan has contributed to fears of the country fragmenting and the war spilling over beyond its borders.

The United Arab Emirates along with some African players have backed the RSF, according to United Nations experts, while Perriello was asked about reported Iranian support for the army, which includes Islamist factions that grew strong under Bashir.

“We are hurtling right now towards a situation where more and more actors appear to be getting involved, where we could see a return of extremist elements that the Sudanese people with great courage and over much time had mostly eradicated from the area,” he said.

Sudan’s army has not responded to requests for comment on the alleged Iranian support.