The warring parties in Sudan signed an agreement in Saudi Arabia on Thursday night to allow trapped civilians to leave combat zones while allowing humanitarian aid to enter.

The declaration of principle is contained in a four-page document, a copy of which was seen by AFP, which contains no mention of a truce or ceasefire, after nearly a month of fighting that left more than 750 dead, 5,000 wounded and more than 900,000 displaced and refugees.

After six days of negotiations, emissaries from General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane's army and paramilitaries of General Mohamed Hamdane Daglo's Rapid Support Forces (RSF) signed the "Jeddah Declaration for the Protection of Civilians in Sudan".

The two sides have accused each other since April 15 of killing civilians: the army assures that the RSF, whose bases are scattered in densely populated neighborhoods of Khartoum, of using them as "human shields" and the RSF denounces the army's air raids on the capital of more than five million inhabitants.

Numerous truces violated

But in Jeddah on Thursday night, they agreed to "create safe passages for civilians to leave the combat zones in the direction of their choice".

They also pledged to "rapidly authorize and facilitate the passage of humanitarian aid" as well as "the passage of humanitarians to and within the country". At least 18 aid workers have been killed so far while trying to help a traumatized population.

For the past four weeks, millions of Sudanese, mainly in Khartoum and Darfur, on the western border with Chad, have been barricaded in their homes, surviving sweltering heat without running water or electricity for fear of going out and being mowed down by a stray bullet.

Food and money are running out everywhere, and the UN is warning of a surge in hunger, a long-standing scourge in Sudan, one of the world's poorest countries.

So far, the Americans and Saudis have announced that they have obtained from both sides half a dozen promises of truce, all violated within minutes of their theoretical entry into force. A US official, however, said on the night of Thursday to Friday that negotiations are underway to obtain a new temporary truce allowing the delivery of aid, with a proposal to stop the fighting for ten days.

"Not there yet"

Washington hopes the signing of the deal will create "momentum" that could lead to the delivery of aid, she added on condition of anonymity. But the army and paramilitaries are "not there yet". Even so, the Forces of Freedom and Change (FLC), the civilian bloc ousted in 2021 by the coup of the two war-torn generals, hailed the Jeddah declaration as "a first step in the right direction."

The UN, the African Union and IGAD – the East African bloc of which Sudan is a member – also welcomed the Jeddah Declaration in a joint statement as "an important first step towards alleviating the suffering of the Sudanese". On the ground on Thursday, however, fighting, air raids and looting now widespread did not stop in different neighborhoods of Khartoum, residents told AFP.

The UN's main body fighting human rights violations decided Thursday to strengthen monitoring abuses in Sudan without creating an investigative mechanism.

The situation is probably most sensitive in Darfur, torn apart in the 2000s by a bloody war, where 450 people according to the UN have died in recent fighting in which armed civilians and tribal fighters or local armed groups are taking part, in addition to military and paramilitary.

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