Leaders from Sudan’s seven neighboring countries agreed on Thursday in Cairo to a new Egyptian-led initiative seeking to resolve the deepening conflict in the African country.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi received Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Chad’s President Idriss Déby, Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, and a representative of Libya.
South Sudan’s President Kiir said their vision for resolving the Sudan crisis is based on a ceasefire and cessation of hostilities.
Fighting in Sudan started three months ago, on 15 April, when army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan fell out with his former deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, known as Hemedti.
Hemedti now commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) who are fighting Burhan’s forces (the SAF) around Khartoum, in Darfur and in South Kordofan.
More than 3,000 people have been killed in the violence, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, and more than three million have been displaced.
Thursday’s meeting in Cairo follows multiple diplomatic efforts to end the violence in Sudan.
Since the beginning of the conflict, the United States and Saudi Arabia have tried impose unsuccessful ceasefires.
Middle Eastern scholar Talal Mohammad recently wrote in Foreign Policy: “Sudan is a bridge that links the Middle East and Africa, and its abundant natural resources mean the battle for Khartoum has taken on a regional dimension.”
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Up until this point, Egypt has supported Saudi-hosted talks in Jeddah.
But the proximity and similarities between Sudan and Egypt seem to have forced Egypt’s al-Sisi to act.
Approximately 256,000 Sudanese refugees have entered Egypt since mid-April, and Egyptians worry about a further influx of people displaced by the war.
Egypt and Sudan also have economic ties. The war is impacting Egypt’s exports in Sudan.
Politcally, Egypt’s leader is a military general, and a fierce opponent of Hemedti’s rebellion.
It is believed that if the negotiations fail again, Egypt might have to support Burhan more openly and maybe even get involved in the conflict on his side.
The east African regional bloc IGAD on Monday held renewed talks, calling on the warring parties to sign an unconditional ceasefire.
The talks were led by Kenyan President William Ruto.
However, the Sudanese army boycotted the gathering in Addis Ababa, after Khartoum’s foreign ministry objected to Ruto’s leadership, accusing Nairobi of siding with the RSF.
Ths reaction dampened hopes for an end to the three-month-old conflict.
USA and Saudi Arabia
Both the US and Saudi Arabia have reacted quickly to try and broker a ceasefire as both have an interest in stabilising the region and especially the Red Sea.
The US also offered a major donation for humanitarian aid in June.
Saudi Arabia, for its part, is a long-time investor in Sudan.
Port Sudan remains a key access for trade between north-eastern Africa and the Arab world.
But Russia also has interests in the region and has helped Sudan extract gold from its largest mines.
The US, for itst part, is concerned about the growing involvement of Moscow in both Sudanese camps.
The US and Saudi Arabia remain the main providers of arms in Sudan.
Christopher Tounsel, the director of the African Studies Program at the University of Washington, told RFI English that Riyadh could secure the involvement of the whole of the Arab League, which could have a major role in stopping the conflict.
While Saudi Arabia supports Burhan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have backed Hemedti, because of his links with rebels in the Libyan and Yemeni conflicts, where the UAE are also involved.
The UAE are interested in controlling Sudan’s economic resources.
The UAE has also collaborated with Russia in supporting the RSF, through the paramilitary Wagner Group, active in Sudan since 2017.
Al-Sisi hopes to secure the support of both Qatar and the United Arab Emirates on his side and thus Burhan’s, to help weaken the Hemedti’s RSF.