Sudanese Army quits ceasefire talks with paramilitary forces

This picture released on the Sudanese Army's Facebook page on May 30, 2023, shows army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan cheering with soldiers as he visits some of their positions in Khartoum.

Sudan's military Wednesday broke off negotiations with the country's paramilitary forces over extending a cease-fire agreement, accusing their rivals of repeatedly violating the U.S.-Saudi-brokered truce.

Both sides to the six-week-old conflict signed a seven-day cease-fire in the Saudi city of Jeddah on May 20 intended to allow for the delivery of humanitarian assistance. A five- day extension was agreed on May 29.

The United States and Saudi Arabia are monitoring implementation of the cease-fire and have said both sides have violated it.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council met Wednesday in a 90-minute-long, closed-door session at the request of Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. It is only the fifth time in his more than five-year tenure that he has requested such a meeting.

"We are facing a dramatic situation in Sudan, both on the political and the humanitarian end, and the secretary-general wanted to share some thoughts that he has with council members," his spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, told reporters.

Sudan's capital, Khartoum, has been mired in violence since April 15, when fighting broke out between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces after relations broke down between military leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and RSF chief General Mohamed Hamdan Degalo.

The two generals are former allies who together orchestrated an October 2021 military coup that derailed a transition to civilian rule following the 2019 ouster of longtime leader Omar al-Bashir.

Tensions between the generals have been growing over disagreements about how the RSF should be integrated in the army and who should oversee that process. The restructuring of the military was part of an effort to restore the country to civilian rule and end the political crisis sparked by the 2021 coup.

UN role
Despite the insecurity, the U.N. and its aid partners have been delivering assistance where they can. Between May 24 and 30, 100 aid trucks were deployed. The World Food Program has reached more than 782,000 people with food and nutrition support over the past four weeks, and the U.N. Population Fund has started to provide vital medicines and reproductive health supplies to the maternity hospital in Wad Medani in Al Jazirah state.

The U.N. also has a political mission in Sudan, known as UNITAMS, which is mandated to assist with the transfer to a civilian-led government. A diplomat with knowledge of the council discussions told VOA that Guterres expressed his frustration over the lack of public support for the mission, which is up for renewal by Saturday.

"It is up to the Security Council to decide whether the Security Council supports the continuation of the mission for another period or whether the Security Council decides that it is time to end it," Guterres told reporters of the mission during brief remarks after the meeting.

Council diplomats said a six-month technical rollover of the mission's mandate is likely to be voted on later this week.

Guterres also expressed his "full confidence" in his envoy, Volker Perthes. Last week, Burhan wrote to Guterres calling for Perthes to resign.

The war has killed hundreds of civilians and left more than 1.2 million others internally displaced, with about 350,000 escaping to neighboring countries. Khartoum has been forced to endure frequent power cuts, with many areas without running water, and most of the hospitals out of service.