The two warring factions in the Sudan conflict sent envoys to Saudi Arabia on Friday to negotiate a firm cease-fire agreement, according to officials.
The talks, to begin Saturday in the Saudi city of Jeddah, are the result of an international effort to bring the two sides face to face, hopefully to negotiate an end to the fighting.
Sudanese officials told The Associated Press the talks in Jeddah would be facilitated by Saudi Arabia and the United States.
The Sudanese officials also told AP that opening humanitarian corridors in Khartoum and Omdurman, and providing protection to civilian infrastructure, including health facilities, will be among the topics discussed.
Saturday will be the first time representatives from Sudan’s military, led by General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, and the rival paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, led by General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, have met for talks since the fighting erupted April 15.
The fighting has killed hundreds, forced hundreds of thousands to flee and has brought Sudan to the brink of collapse.
The talks Saturday come after previous fragile cease-fire agreements failed to end the fighting.
The United Nations migration agency said this week that at least 334,000 people have been internally displaced by the fighting, in addition to the 100,000 who have fled the country. The U.N. refugee agency has warned the fighting could cause more than 800,000 people to flee Sudan.
Many are going to the seven countries bordering Sudan, including Chad, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Egypt and Ethiopia.
Most aid operations have been suspended or severely scaled back due to the lack of security. Several aid workers have been killed in the fighting. The Norwegian Refugee Council said Wednesday that one of their Sudanese volunteers was killed Sunday in the volatile city of Geneina in West Darfur.
Looting also has hampered aid operations.
The World Food Program said earlier this week that nearly 17,000 tons of food had been stolen from its warehouses across Sudan.
“This would translate to about 13 or 14 million U.S. dollars,” Eddie Row, the WFP country director, said in an interview Thursday with Reuters. ” Almost every day we are receiving reports of additional looting.”
WFP has said it is working to determine what supplies remain. Before the fighting, WFP had more than 80,000 tons of stocks in the country. The agency still plans to provide food assistance for 384,000 people in coming days.
The U.N. refugee agency’s Darfur coordinator said looting has long been a problem in Darfur, and many of their facilities have been robbed since April 15.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said Thursday it has launched an emergency appeal to support the Sudanese Red Crescent Society to deliver assistance to 200,000 people.
Some information in this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.