United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says there is strong consensus within the international community on condemning the fighting in Sudan and the need to call for a cessation of hostilities as an immediate priority.
Guterres made these remarks after participating in a virtual meeting convened by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat and attended by the leadership of the European Union, the Arab League, IGAD and various countries including the United Kingdom and the United States.
The UN Chief has called for a three-day ceasefire marking the Eid al-Fitr celebrations but also in order to allow for civilians trapped in conflict zones to escape, to seek medical treatment and other essential supplies including food and water.
The virtual meeting, joined by the Secretary-General and his team in New York, part of international efforts to arrest the situation amid a rising death toll now in excess of 330 with over 3000 injured according to the World Health Organisation.
As an immediate priority, I appeal for a ceasefire to take place for at least three days, marking the Eid al-Fitr celebrations, to allow civilians trapped in conflict zones to escape and to seek medical treatment, food and other essential supplies. This must be the first step in providing respite from the fighting and paving the way for a permanent ceasefire. I have been personally engaged in doing everything possible to make it happen. The cessation of hostilities must be followed by serious dialogue allowing for the successful transition, starting with the appointment of a civilian government.”
The generals leading the two military factions have so far rejected direct negotiations with each other while two previous efforts at humanitarian pauses have failed to quell the fighting. The SG was pressed on what the catalyst would be for a third attempt to succeed.
“All parties to the conflict are Muslim. We are leaving a very important moment in the Muslim calendar. I think this is the right moment for a ceasefire to halt and this ceasefire is absolutely crucial at the present moment. We have been in contact with the parties. We believe it is possible, but everybody must be united in putting pressure for the ceasefire to take effectively place.”
The UN earlier warned that the country’s health system risked complete collapse while urgently needed aid has virtually come to standstill despite a third of the country or more than 15 million people in need of humanitarian relief.
“The fighting must stop immediately. I am deeply concerned about the terrible toll on civilians, the appalling humanitarian situation and the horrifying prospects of further escalation. Hundreds of people have been killed and injured. Fighting in urban areas is particularly dangerous for civilians, including children who have repeatedly been forced to shelter in schools and evacuated from hospitals under fire.”
Guterres added, “This is completely outrageous. Humanitarian operations are virtually impossible. Warehouses, vehicles and other humanitarian assets have been attacked, looted and seized. Targeting humanitarian workers and assets must end. And I remind all parties of their obligations under international law, including ensuring safety and security of humanitarian aid workers.”
This as reports emerge that the United States is positioning assets in Djibouti for a potential evacuation of US Embassy personnel in Khartoum.
Just like UN and humanitarian staff in country, US diplomats have been sheltering in place since violence erupted on Saturday amid fighting even in densely populated areas like the capital Khartoum.
This development, first reported by Politico, points to Washington positioning military troops in Djibouti in order to give the US options to launch an evacuation operation. And with the main airport in Sudan now inoperable, countries are left with limited options to evacuate staff and/or citizens from the country
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