A man rides a donkey that carries a luggage of refugees fleeing from Sudan to Ethiopia in Metema. Image Credit: AFP

Khartoum: Sudan’s warring generals are close to signing a joint declaration that would allow for humanitarian access to the nation’s capital, with African Union troops potentially being deployed to secure the airport, senior AU and United Nations officials said.

The agreement, being hashed out in Saudi Arabia between representatives of the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, is in its final stages and may provide a framework for aid to be flown into Khartoum, where the two sides have been at war for almost a month. At least 570 people have died, according to the World Health Organization, while more than 5,000 more have been injured.

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“The last information we had as of late yesterday is that the parties in Jeddah would be able to sign a document on the humanitarian question,” Hacet Lebatt, a senior adviser to AU Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat, said in a phone interview on Wednesday morning.

“Discussions are ongoing” on how the AU’s peacekeeping forces could secure the airport, which has been heavily damaged by fighting, he said. The United States and Saudi Arabia are leading the talks in Jeddah.

Political Talks

Nearly four weeks into the conflict, millions of Sudanese can’t access desperately needed aid that’s stuck at the nation’s main port 670 kilometers (416 miles) northeast of Khartoum because of a lack of security along a key transit route.

The number of internally displaced people in Sudan has doubled in the past week to more than 700,000, while almost 200,000 people have fled to neighboring countries since fighting began, according to the International Organization for Migration. An additional 2 million to 2.5 million people are expected to fall into hunger in the coming months because of the conflict, according to the World Food Programme.

With international concern at the prospect of regional contagion growing, discussions have also begun on what form political negotiations will take, Volker Perthes, the UN’s chief representative in Sudan, said in an interview. But that will come after humanitarian access is secured and an actual cease-fire is established “- both sides have repeatedly broken previously agreed truces since the conflict began.

Political talks will likely be led by the AU, UN, the Arab League and the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development bloc, he said.

Both generals “- Abdul Fattah Al Burhan, who leads the Sudanese Armed Forces, and Mohammad Hamdan Dagalo, who heads the RSF “- had originally expected “this would be a quick win over the other side,” he said.

But “both sides have realised that there will be no quick win” and that a protracted conflict could destroy the country of 45 million people, he said. “If this war drags on, even if one side at the end would win, they risk losing their country.”