UN chief urges Sudan's warring parties to pursue peace, reconciliation



United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday called upon Sudan's warring parties to pursue the path of peace and reconciliation in order to avert a humanitarian crisis that could engulf the greater Horn of the African region.

Guterres, who spoke at a media briefing in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, said the conflict that broke out in Sudan in mid-April remains of grave concern, adding that laying down of arms among combatants is urgent.

"The fighting needs to stop now before more people die and this conflict explodes into an all-out war that could affect the region for years to come," Guterres said. "All parties must put the interests of the Sudanese people first -- that means peace, prosperity, and a return to civilian rule."

Guterres is expected to discuss the situation in Sudan with Kenyan officials during his official trip to the East African nation besides chairing this year's first session of the UN System Chief Executive Board for Coordination.

The board, which meets twice every year, brings together the leaders of the UN agencies, funds, and programs, and happens to be the highest-level coordination forum of the UN system.

While acknowledging that Sudan's crisis is taking a toll on civilians amid a lack of access to food, clean drinking water, and essential medicine, Guterres urged fighters loyal to Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), and Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the head of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), to adhere to the latest seven-day ceasefire and commence peace talks.

The fighting between the SAF and the RSF that broke on April 15 in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, has so far claimed the lives of more than 500 people and left over 4,000 more injured, according to Sudan's Ministry of Health.

Now in its third week, the fighting, which has disrupted a transition to civilian rule in Sudan, has displaced civilians with an estimated 100,000 people having fled to neighboring countries, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

On Tuesday, the two rival factions agreed on a seven-day ceasefire mediated by neighboring South Sudan.

Guterres warned that an escalation of the Sudan crisis could displace 800,000 civilians in the near future, adding that the UN had rallied behind regional mediation efforts to end fighting in the northeastern African nation.

The UN chief appealed to the international community to scale up humanitarian assistance for Sudan alongside the quest for peace and a return to civilian rule.

In addition, Guterres urged combatants in Sudan to protect critical infrastructure and amenities, and provide a safe corridor for seamless passage of humanitarian aid meant for civilians trapped in the latest conflict.

(Xinhua News Agency)