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Formal talks to end war in Sudan may restart in mid-April, US special envoy says

Formal talks aimed at ending the war in Sudan may restart in mid-April, US Special Envoy for Sudan Tom Perriello said Tuesday, as the conflict nears its one-year mark.

Perriello said he believes that “a number of factors have changed on the ground that make this moment more promising for resolution,” even after past rounds of talks have failed to broker a lasting end to the fighting, but noted that the odds are still not overly promising.

“That is not to say that I think we have a better than 50% chance of success, but I think we have a real path with a chance, and we’re going to pursue that with everything we’ve got,” he said.

Perriello told reporters that the formal talks are not expected to start until after Ramadan, with a potential date of April 18.

“We hope that that will be locked in as a date soon,” he said, so people can go from a donor conference in Paris on April 15 to the talks, which would again be held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

“In the meantime, we want to use that period between now and the start of talks to be exploring every angle we can that it’s teed up for success,” he said.

April 15 will mark the one-year anniversary of the eruption of the fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The war has claimed thousands of lives, displaced millions, and triggered “the world’s largest hunger crisis,” according to the UN.

Perriello said that the April talks would again be hosted by the US and Saudi Arabia, with expected participation from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development and the African Union.

Tom Perriello is seen at the Alexandria Fire Department Head Quarters in Alexandria, Virginia, June 13, 2017. - Astrid Riecken For The Washington Post via Getty Images
Tom Perriello is seen at the Alexandria Fire Department Head Quarters in Alexandria, Virginia, June 13, 2017. - Astrid Riecken For The Washington Post via Getty Images

“We understand that we don’t necessarily need a thousand actors there. That can create its own chaos. But we do think the key African and regional counterparts as well as the significant role we know that Egypt and the Emiratis have in the Sudan situation,” Perriello said.

“We are trying to figure out what combination of actors and incentives can get this war to an end,” he added. “We have two generals who are fighting each other and so that’s obviously one place we and others are looking at how to either get these two together or get these two to agree. And the second is what is a set of actors that can help compel that decision.”

Perriello said that the “significant elevation of diplomatic engagement,” the fact that neither side is poised for an outright victory and the looming famine could allow the talks to be more successful than in the past. He also noted that reports of Islamist extremists returning to Sudan ratchets up the urgency of bringing the war to an end.

Asked about CNN’s reporting that the RSF has weaponized food to coerce men and boys to enlist, Perriello said, “We have seen forced recruitment.”

“I think there are signs that the RSF has stretched itself thin, and that may be one of the reasons that we’re seeing increased forced recruitment and child recruitment,” he said.

“We see that as a sign of weakness and fraying and something that can lead to a lot of other negative outcomes,” Perriello said. He said that the US is continuing to look at how to expand sanctions on those committing atrocities in Sudan.

Perriello said both the RSF and SAF are “huge barriers” to humanitarian aid in Sudan.

“We’ve got to get these big convoys through. We are talking about incredible fragility inside, in no small part because both sides, but particularly the RSF, raided all of the stores, burned down all of the farming during the harvest. So there’s no resiliency backup, as we head into what’s called the lean season, along with the rainy season,” he said. “So, very, very serious humanitarian crisis and certainly (the World Food Program) and others are seized with that.”

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