US joins push for peace in Sudan

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The top US diplomat for Africa joined an international effort to press Sudan’s military rulers and opposition to a deal on a transition to democracy two months after the overthrow of former President Omar al-Bashir.

An Ethiopian envoy said the military and opposition groups agreed to resume talks on the formation of a transitional council which collapsed after violent dispersal of a protest sit-in on June 3.

Tibor Nagy, the US assistant secretary of state for Africa, met with the main opposition coalition and held talks with Sudan’s acting Deputy Foreign Minister Ilham Ibrahim on Wednesday.

Before the meetings the State Department said Nagy would urge the parties to work toward an environment conducive to the resumption of negotiations. The United States also named veteran diplomat Donald Booth as its envoy to Sudan.

After meeting Nagy, the main opposition coalition said it would only participate in indirect talks and would impose more conditions.

“We informed the Ethiopian prime minister we refuse direct negotiations with the transitional military council,” said Madani Abbas Madani, a leader of the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces.

“The point of contention between us is clear and our terms are clear; we are talking about issues of transition to civilian rule and the rights of martyrs.”

The bloodshed has drawn expressions of concern from world powers including the United States, which imposed sanctions on Sudan under Bashir over its alleged support for militant groups and the civil war in Darfur.

Stability in the nation of 40 million is crucial for a volatile region struggling with conflict and insurgencies from the Horn of Africa to Egypt and Libya.

The military council has been bolstered by support from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which between them have offered $3 billion in aid.

OPTIMISM

“The current detente in Sudan calls for optimism and we call for establishment of an agreement to drive the transitional phase through a real and stable partnership,” UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said on Twitter.

He praised Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who flew to Khartoum last week on a mediation mission and is expected to return this week.

The June 3 crackdown led to at least 118 deaths, according to opposition-linked medics. Government confirmed 61 deaths, including three security personnel.

Sudan’s Foreign Ministry summoned the British ambassador, Irfan Siddiq,  to protest his remarks, SUNA reported. As authorities tried to disperse the main protest site last week, he tweeted: “No excuse for any such attack. This. Must. Stop. Now.”

Talks between the military and opposition were deadlocked before the crackdown as the both struggled to agree on the make-up of a sovereign council to oversee the transition.

In Khartoum, employees returned to work on Wednesday and store owners opened shops, after the alliance of protesters and opposition groups suspended a three-day campaign of strikes and civil disobedience.

Many people lined up outside ATMs and banks closed first for the Eid holiday and then because of the strike.

Sudan is still suffering an internet outage. Some side streets closed by protesters were still partially blocked by remnants of barricades. Rubbish bins not emptied for days were overflowing.