Opinion

Promising signals from Saudi-sponsored Jeddah closed-door talks in halting Sudan bloodletting

November 06, 2023
Promising signals from Saudi-sponsored Jeddah closed-door talks in halting Sudan bloodletting

Jameel Altheyabi

All eyes of Sudanese people and peace advocates are turned toward Jeddah in western Saudi Arabia, with a “ray of hope” in ending the bloody war that’s being fought between two rival factions in Sudan. The Jeddah talks have brought together those who ruled the neighboring African country before the outbreak of the war on April 15, and the factions divided by the ambitions of being the singular ruling party, excluding the other!

Despite the bitterness, cruelty and tragedies of the war on the ground, the parties involved in it have come together on the Jeddah podium. This was out of a real desire to turn the page on the harshest and most ferocious war that Sudan has witnessed ever since its independence in 1956.

The signals coming from the closed doors of negotiations indicate that the parties want, this time, a real peace through this round of talks, which was preceded by several rounds that failed to halt the bloodshed in the country located between the White and Blue Nile rivers in the Horn of Africa or return of those displaced to their homes following a “futile war.”

The war has claimed the lives of 9,000, and resulted in the destruction of 30,000 buildings in Khartoum, and imposed forced migration of five million male and female Sudanese people. Tens of thousands of them are waiting at the border crossings, with a hope that they can one day leave for their country.

We can say that the ray of hope for ending the Sudanese-Sudanese fighting, under the auspices of the Saudi-American initiative, has become brighter than ever before. This initiative harnessed all its efforts to opening safe corridors for relief supplies and extinguishing the fires burning in the heart of the “triangular capital” and its outskirts, which also extends up to Darfur state, which can barely escape the fighting. Moreover, after being engulfed in the war, Darfur is involved in a fiercer fighting than it had ever fought earlier.

In a bid to stop the seas of blood and succor the bereaved, the Saudi government has facilitated building bridges of hope and life to Khartoum and various other cities of Sudan through the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) in order to provide aid to the victims of the senseless war. Food baskets, medicine supplies, and mobile hospitals have reached all parts of Sudan.

This humanitarian initiative was preceded by the largest operation to evacuate Saudis and thousands of nationals of other countries from the hells of war in Khartoum to safe land in Saudi Arabia, before leaving for their respective countries in all corners of the world through the city of Jeddah, which opened its arms as a “crossing point” for safety and a podium for peace.

On Oct, 29, a joint statement was issued by Saudi Arabia, the United States of America, and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) along with the African Union regarding a new round of talks between the parties in conflict— the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

The facilitators limited the items on the agenda of negotiations to three pivotal points: Facilitating the delivery of humanitarian aid; achieving a ceasefire, and realizing confidence-building measures and the possibility of achieving a permanent cessation of hostilities, and then refraining from dealing with any issues of a political nature during the confidence-building phase.

In a joint statement, Riyadh and Washington stressed that the facilitators are the only joint official spokesman for the talks, in order to consolidate the rules of conduct that were agreed upon by both parties, and which guide the talks. The decision aimed to cut off any speculation or agendas that would derail the progress of the peace process, and thus getting access to any information from the closed doors of negotiations on the Red Sea coast was like searching for a needle in a “haystack”!

What is new this time was that Sudanese civilians, who assumed that any possible settlement would give them the administration of their country, decided to build a united front to stop the fighting and determine ways to resume the political process.

Civilian leaders and prominent figures, led by former Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok, came to the Ethiopian capital to determine the frameworks of the new civilian alliance, which the Saudi-American Initiative hopes will be a true unification of the civilian groups opposed to the war, so that mediators can agree with them on arrangements after the cessation of the war.

The Sudanese civilian forces have welcomed the resumption of the ‘Jeddah Negotiating Podium’ and offered their thanks to Saudi Arabia and the United States of America, the two countries sponsoring the talks. They wrapped their meeting with decisions to develop the negotiating position of the civilian forces, as well as security and military reform, institutional rebuilding of state agencies, peace, strengthening the social fabric, combating the rhetoric of hatred, and rebuilding and reconstruction of what was destroyed by war.

The Sudanese issue is one of the most prominent concerns of the Saudi foreign policy, in light of Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed Bin Salman’s announcement that anything that might fuel turmoil and unrest in the region should not be allowed. It is also significant owing to the long-standing and strong historical relations between Saudi Arabia and Sudan, especially since Sudan represents a country having strategic depth for Saudi Arabia on the eastern coast of the Red Sea.

Let us not forget that relations in their popular dimension are full of passion, affection and respect. Saudis love their Sudanese brothers for their kindness, honesty, and sincerity in their work. I do not fail to point out, as I have done repeatedly, that a large segment of the Sudanese brothers feels that the hope for resolving their country’s crisis lies exclusively in the Saudi-American initiative.

This is an important and good opinion, which is attributed to their awareness that Saudi Arabia is a friend and brother to all Sudanese, regardless of their orientations and visions for the future of Sudan. It is necessary to point out that the Kingdom played a vital role through its presence in the Western and international alliances seeking to resolve the Sudanese crisis.

The Saudi ambassador in Khartoum had a notable role to play and had a part in the successful initiatives, with his country’s support, and that resulted in reaching the “Framework Agreement,” which was signed in December 2022. This is what experts and analysts agree is the best possible solution to the problem of a country that houses hundreds of tribes, whose people speak hundreds of dialects, numerous religions, Sufi orders, and political movements having the leftist, rightist, and centrist roots.

There is certainly great hope that the Jeddah negotiations will succeed in reaching agreements that guarantee the resumption of the political process between the warring parties and the transformation of the framework agreement into a complete political agreement. Such an agreement would regulate the relationship between civilians and the military for the good, security, and stability of Sudan. This is what Saudi Arabia wants for brotherly Sudan and its loving people.


November 06, 2023
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