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UN to Spearhead Sudan Crisis Talks

Sudan has been shaken by pro-democracy protests and a deadly crackdown by security forces since General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan mounted the October 25 takeover

The United Nations said Saturday it will launch talks to help Sudan find an end to the crisis following a military coup that stalled the country’s transition to civilian rule.

“It is time to end the violence and enter into a constructive process,” UN special envoy Volker Perthes said in a statement, announcing talks to bring together “all key civilian and military stakeholders”.

Sudan has been shaken by pro-democracy protests and a deadly crackdown by security forces since General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan mounted the October 25 takeover that dismantled a fragile power-sharing agreement between the military and civilians.

The arrangement was agreed following the April 2019 ouster of autocratic president Omar al-Bashir after months of street protests against his iron-fisted rule.

At least 60 people have been killed in a violent crackdown since the coup, according to the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors, which is part of the pro-democracy movement.

“The transition has faced major setbacks that have deeply impacted the country since the military coup,” Perthes said.

“The subsequent and repeated violence against largely peaceful demonstrators has only served to deepen the mistrust among all political parties in Sudan,” he added.

The UN-backed talks are aimed at “supporting Sudanese stakeholders in agreeing on a way out of the current political crisis and… a sustainable path forward towards democracy and peace.”

Later, the UN said a news conference would be held on Monday “to mark the official launching of the intra-Sudanese Talks on Democracy and Transition”.

– ‘Seize the opportunity’ –

Perthes said he was “deeply concerned that the current political impasse may slide the country further into instability”.

“Armed movements, political parties, civil society, women’s groups and resistance committees will be invited to participate in the UN-facilitated political process,” he added.

But the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), the civilian alliance which spearheaded the protests against Bashir, said it had not received “any details” about the UN initiative.

In a statement, the FFC said it would “study it once officially received”, and reiterated its “unreversed” position of continuing “peaceful mass action to defeat the October 25 coup and establish full civilian authority”.

The so-called Quad countries — the United States, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — welcomed the UN initiative.

“We urge all Sudanese political actors to seize this opportunity to restore the country’s transition to civilian democracy,” the four countries said in a joint statement.

They said they hoped the talks would lead to elections in Sudan.

The Arab League also welcomed the talks.

The UN Security Council is to meet Wednesday to discuss the latest developments in Sudan.

Last week, civilian prime minister Abdalla Hamdok resigned, leaving the military in full control of Sudan.

Hamdok had been held under house arrest for weeks following the coup, before being reinstated in a November 21 deal after international pressure.

The pro-democracy protest movement denounced the deal as a “betrayal”, saying it provided Burhan with a cloak of legitimacy for his takeover.

Announcing his resignation last Sunday, Hamdok warned Sudan was at a “dangerous crossroads threatening its very survival”.