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Sudan's rival military factions are meeting for in-person talks for the first time

Smoke billows during fighting in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on Wednesday. Hundreds have been killed and thousands injured in the fighting.
AFP via Getty Images
Smoke billows during fighting in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on Wednesday. Hundreds have been killed and thousands injured in the fighting.

After three weeks of brutal fighting in Sudan that's killed hundreds of civilians and turned its capital into a disaster zone, the country's warring military factions have agreed to meet in person.

The "pre-negotiation" talks, organized by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, are being held in the Saudi city of Jeddah on Saturday, the two countries said in a joint statement on Friday.

The U.S. and Saudi Arabia have urged the rival military groups to resolve the conflict and ensure that humanitarian aid can safely reach affected areas.

It will be the first face-to-face meeting between members of the Sudanese army and the paramilitary group Rapid Support Forces (RSF) since the two began vying for control back in mid-April.

In anticipation of the talks, the two factions agreed to a week-long cease-fire, which started on Thursday.

Over the past few weeks, previous attempts to negotiate have been unsuccessful and the fighting only escalated. Fighting was reported on Friday in Khartoum, according to The Associated Press.

The power struggle over who gets to run the resource-rich nation of Sudan has been brewing for months. The tipping point came on April 15 when the RSF took control of the presidential palace, the state TV station, the residence of the army chief and Khartoum International Airport.

The leader of each faction, Sudanese Army Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan and RSF Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, were allies not long ago. In 2019, their two groups joined forces to depose former long-time leader Omar al-Bashir and briefly lived under civilian rule until the two groups began struggling for dominance in 2021.

Since April, over 500 people have been killed and about 4,500 others have been injured by the conflict, a Sudanese agency said, though true figures may be far higher. More than 100,000 people have fled the country, while those who have stayed reported running out of food and water in the midst of the fighting.

"There is no water, and there is also no electricity and also no market. And all the humanitarian actors, especially the international community, have left," MSF coordinator Mohamed Gibreel Adam, who lives in the city of El Fasher in Darfur, told NPR on Thursday. People there have "a fear, lack of protection, like hopeless, the feeling that they were left alone in this kind of dire and very critical situation."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.