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Sudan’s warring factions not taking advantage of talks to achieve agreed truce -US

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By Daphne Psaledakis, Simon Lewis and Nafisa Eltahir

WASHINGTON/CAIRO (Reuters) -Sudan’s warring factions are not taking advantage of talks initiated by the United States and Saudi Arabia meant to yield a permanent ceasefire as they originally agreed, a senior U.S. State Department official said on Tuesday.

The United States is consulting with Saudi Arabia and others in the Arab world and Africa about a path forward and hoped to announce a recommended approach in the next few days, the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters in Washington.

“We think we’ve given them every shot. We’ve given them this venue to try and come together and try and find a way forward that doesn’t involve achieving an outcome that’s based on violence or military dominance,” the official said.

“They are clearly not taking advantage of the format that we’ve given them. It’s not succeeding in the way they had originally agreed in terms of this step by step process to reach a permanent cessation of hostilities.”

The war between Sudan’s regular army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) began in mid April and has forced almost 2 million people to flee and wrecked the economy.

The talks in the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah have failed to permanently end fighting and clashes intensified as soon as a ceasefire ended on Sunday. The army refused to extend that 24-hour ceasefire, the U.S. official said.

Airstrikes, artillery fire and gunfire erupted in the capital Khartoum and adjoining cities Bahri and Omdurman, killing civilians.

The violence continued in some areas of Khartoum on Monday, while some residents reported relative calm. The fighting has trapped civilians in a worsening humanitarian crisis in which people are frequently without electricity and water.

At least 866 people have been killed and over 6,000 injured in the fighting, the United Nations said on Thursday, citing government statistics.

A second senior State Department official told reporters there was a “dawning realization” among the warring parties that there was no acceptable military solution. This had not yet translated, however, into willingness to take tangible steps to lock in a longer ceasefire and a broader permanent cessation of hostilities, the official said.

U.S. CONSIDERS SCALING BACK TALKS

The second official said the United States is questioning how much more mileage they can get out of talks in Jeddah that could lead to a broader cessation of hostilities, or whether they would scale back talks and focus intently on humanitarian assistance.

“That’s something we’re actively talking about with partners,” the official said.

The same official said the warring parties had not received much external support yet, despite concerns that the conflict would attract the interference of foreign actors, adding that work was being done to keep it that way.

“I think their previous partners are somewhat shocked. Everyone is shocked – like no one can believe that one would behave in such a suicidal manner. And they’re concerned about the impact on their country and their region,” the first official said.

The RSF said on Tuesday it had taken over the Um Dafog army base near the border with the Central African Republic and potentially a hub for supplies.

The extent of losses was unclear on either side but neither the army nor the RSF has appeared to establish the advantage.

The fighting has expanded to other parts of Sudan, in particular to the West Darfur city of El Geneina, where 1,100 people have been killed, according to activists.

Previous ceasefires had allowed some humanitarian access to the country, but aid agencies reported still being impeded by the fighting, bureaucracy and looting.

(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Simon Lewis in Washington and Nafisa Eltahir in Cairo; editing by Mark Heinrich and Grant McCool)

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