Evacuees leave Saudi Amanah ship after landing at Jeddah port, Saudi Arabia, May 4, 2023. 

Negotiations continue in Saudi Arabia to end fighting in Sudan

Talks are underway in Saudi Arabia to end the fighting in Sudan. But so far, there’s been no major breakthrough. The World’s Shirin Jaafari spoke with Fahad Nazer, spokesperson for the Saudi Embassy in Washington, about where the talks are headed.

The World

It’s been almost a month since fighting broke out between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary group known as the Rapid Support Forces.

 Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, has become a battleground.

Thousands of people have fled. And those who remain face shortages of water, food, medicine and electricity.

Talks are underway in Saudi Arabia to end the fighting in Sudan. So far, there’s been no major breakthrough.

The World’s Shirin Jaafari spoke with Fahad Nazer, spokesperson for the Saudi Embassy in Washington.

Shirin Jaafari: What can you tell us about the latest regarding the peace talks in Sudan?
Fahad Nazer: So, let me start by saying that Saudi Arabia is working on multiple fronts to help restore peace and stability to Sudan. It is engaged with all the relevant parties on the ground. It has called for an immediate end to the violence. It is also leading the international evacuation effort. As of today, we have evacuated over 8,500 people, most of whom are, in fact, foreign nationals, including dozens of diplomats and UN staff. We are also providing $100 million worth of much needed humanitarian assistance. As of Wednesday, at least three Saudi planes carrying food and medicine have actually arrived in Sudan. We have also hosted preliminary talks that include the relevant stakeholders in Jeddah over the weekend.
Can you expand on why these talks are described as preliminary?
Yes. So, our immediate concern is that the violence stops to allow those who want to leave Sudan to do so safely and also to allow humanitarian assistance to get to those who need it most. We are hoping that these talks will reduce tensions and pave the way for additional talks that deal more directly with the issues that led to the outbreak of violence in the first place.
What has been achieved so far in these talks?
Saudi Arabia believes that the way to resolve this crisis is through an inclusive political dialogue that puts the interests of the people of Sudan above all else. We believe in the importance of diplomacy whenever possible. We offer to mediate between nations, but also occasionally between factions within nations. Saudi Arabia is often uniquely positioned to play the role of honest broker, and we have a pretty good track record of doing that. Going back to 1990, when we helped bring an end to the civil war in Lebanon. So, this is what we're doing in Sudan. We believe that the way forward is through a negotiated settlement and political inclusive dialogue. And we're hoping that the talks that began over the weekend will pave the way for just that.
Does it seem like there is an interest from the two sides to come to an agreement?
Yeah, I think we're hopeful. Obviously, all we can do is encourage this dialogue to continue to provide the forum. We also believe that […] this crisis has now taken on an international dimension. Anytime you have people seeking shelter across borders, obviously the crisis takes on a different dimension. We are working very closely with the United States in that regard. And in fact, the US was one of the co-sponsors of the talks that took place in Jeddah. And we are consulting with our regional and international allies, our partners, to try to find a resolution to the conflict.
One criticism that has been raised about the negotiations is that they don’t include civilian representatives. What is your response to that?
Saudi Arabia does not choose the leaders of other nations, does not choose the composition of government institutions. However, our policy in general is that the way forward to resolving crises such as the one in Sudan, is to initiate a dialogue, a political dialogue that is inclusive, as inclusive as possible, and that includes all the stakeholders in the process. We believe that the current talks certainly are on the right track in that regard.
Does Saudi Arabia have any plans to assist Sudanese people to leave if they want to?
Well, we are certainly trying to do whatever we can. Our main concern is to stop the violence and to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Sudan, in addition to providing this venue for a political dialogue to take place.

Editor’s note: this interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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