- UN aid official seeks personal meetings with Sudanese factions
- The United Nations said six truckloads of humanitarian supplies were looted
- The fighting continues despite the supposed truce between the generals
KHARTOUM (Reuters) – The United Nations pressured warring factions in Sudan on Wednesday to ensure safe passage for humanitarian aid after six trucks were looted and air strikes in the capital Khartoum undermined a supposed truce.
UN aid secretary-general Martin Griffiths said he hoped to hold face-to-face meetings with the warring parties in Sudan within two to three days to secure guarantees from them for aid convoys to deliver relief supplies.
“The meeting was scheduled to take place in Khartoum or another place to plan a large-scale relief operation,” Griffiths told Reuters in a telephone interview from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, after a visit to Port Sudan.
“It’s important to me that we meet physically and face to face to discuss this, because we need it to be a public and accountable moment,” he said.
The United Nations has warned that fighting between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, which broke out on April 15, threatens a humanitarian catastrophe that could spill over into other countries. Sudan said on Tuesday that 550 people have been killed and 4,926 wounded so far in the conflict.
Airstrikes were heard in Khartoum and the neighboring cities of Omdurman and Bahri on Wednesday, even as both sides agreed to extend the shaky and broken chain of truces for another seven days from Thursday.
In Khartoum, millions were still trying to shelter from open warfare between an army using air strikes and heavy artillery and the Rapid Support Forces stationed in residential neighbourhoods.
Most hospitals were out of service and many areas were without electricity and water as supplies of food and fuel dwindled.
Under pressure from international mediators for peace talks, the Sudanese army said it would send an envoy to hold talks with the leaders of South Sudan, Kenya and Djibouti.
Aid has stalled in the country of 46 million people, a third of whom already depend on relief aid.
Speaking earlier, Griffiths said he was told by the United Nations World Food Program that six trucks traveling to the western region of Darfur had been looted on their way, despite assurances of safety and security.
Griffiths said in an interview with Reuters that he spoke by phone with the army chief, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the commander of the Rapid Support Forces, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, on Wednesday to tell them that there was a need for aid corridors and specific air transfers.
“We are very clear now in our operational requirements in terms of what we need in terms of commitments from them,” he said.
Pressure general, says the UN
And in Nairobi, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the international community must tell the two leaders that the situation is unacceptable. He said the two leaders must face pressure to stop the fighting, start dialogue, and allow a transition to civilian government.
Al-Burhan’s envoy, Daffallah Al-Hajj, said in Cairo that the army had accepted the talks, but there would be no face-to-face discussions with the RSF and communication would be through mediators.
South Sudan said the two sides agreed to a cease-fire and to send representatives to the talks, but the RSF has not officially commented. Hemedti said in a tweet on Wednesday that he was committed to “opening and securing safe passages.”
The United Nations says about 100,000 people have fled Sudan with little food or water to neighboring countries.
The conflict spilled over into Darfur, where the RSF emerged from tribal militias that fought alongside government forces to crush rebels in a 20-year war.
The army and the Rapid Support Forces joined forces in a coup two years ago and shared power in an internationally backed transition towards free elections and a civilian government.
Written by Michael Georgy. Editing by Simon Cameron Moore
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