The U.N. Security Council called Friday for an immediate cease-fire in Sudan to be followed by a permanent halt to hostilities and fresh efforts to reach a lasting democratic political settlement in the conflict-wracked country.
The U.N.'s most powerful body strongly condemned all attacks on civilians since fighting between rival generals vying for power broke out in mid-April.
The conflict has led to hundreds of civilian deaths and the flight of almost 1 million people from their homes to try to escape the violence, according to the U.N.
The press statement from the council was issued ahead of a vote later Friday to extend the U.N. political mission in the country for six months, instead of a year, to give the council time to consider its future.
On Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres asked to brief the council behind closed doors for only the fifth time since he took office in January 2017 about the impact of the ongoing conflict on the U.N. mission known as UNITAMS. It was established by the council on June 3, 2020, to provide support to Sudan during its political transition to democratic rule.
After his briefing, the U.N. chief told the 15 council members it's up to them to decide whether to continue the political mission to Sudan or whether "it's time to end it."
After the ouster of Sudanese strongman Omar al-Bashir in 2019, Sudan embarked on a shaky democratic transition led by civilian and army leaders. But the generals seized complete power in a coup in October 2021, before turning against each other.
Sudanese leader General Abdel-Fattah Burhan and General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, who heads the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), agreed to restore the transition but clashed over the terms of the RSF's merger into the army, a disagreement that exploded into open conflict on April 15.
A week ago, Burhan demanded in a letter to Guterres that the U.N. special envoy to Sudan, Volker Perthes, be removed, saying his approach in pre-war talks between the generals helped inflame the conflict and accusing him of "being partisan." The U.N. chief was "shocked" by the letter.
After Wednesday's meeting, Guterres said he reaffirmed to the council "my full confidence in Volker Perthes."
In Friday's statement, the Security Council reaffirmed support for UNITAMS, which Perthes leads, and underlined the need "for strengthened international coordination and continued collaboration."
Late Thursday, the United States and Saudi Arabia announced that they were suspending peace talks with representatives of the two generals that had been taking place in the Saudi city of Jeddah since late May. Sudan's military had suspended its participation in the talks Wednesday, citing "repeated violations" by RSF forces of a U.S.-Saudi brokered humanitarian cease-fire, including their continued occupation of hospitals and other civilian infrastructure in the capital, Khartoum. The RSF said it "unconditionally backs the Saudi-U.S. initiative."
The U.S.-Saudi joint statement said the talks were being suspended "as a result of repeated serious violations of the short-term ceasefire and recent ceasefire extension" on Monday.