Sudan military ruler arrives in Egypt on first trip abroad since war began

By Nafisa Eltahir and Khalid Abdelaziz

(Reuters) -Sudanese military ruler General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan met his Egyptian counterpart on Tuesday in his first trip abroad since the April outbreak of war in Sudan, a day after rejecting calls for fresh negotiations.

The two discussed President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s offer to mediate the conflict during a short meeting in the coastal city of El Alamein, an initiative Burhan said he welcomed, according to an Egyptian presidency statement.

On Monday, Burhan said the regular army he leads would vanquish the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and never sign a deal with them, dashing new hopes of talks to end a war that has plunged Sudan into overlapping humanitarian crises.

The visit represents the first time Burhan has left Sudan since the April 15 start of the conflict, which broke out amid discord over plans to integrate their troops into a single force as part of a transition to democracy.

Burhan is also expected to visit Saudi Arabia, which along with the United States had held meetings with the two sides that yielded ceasefire pacts that were all violated in short order.

In brief comments from El Alamein, Burhan said he wanted to end the war, but did not mention the possibility of talks.

“We ask the world to take an objective and correct view of this war. This war was started by a group that wanted to take over power, and in the process it has committed every crime that could come to mind,” Burhan said.

The RSF has been accused of looting homes and raping dozens of women, according to activists and victims, and of ethnic warfare that has driven out hundreds of thousands of residents of El Geneina in West Darfur.

The RSF has denied the accusations but said that any of its fighters found involved in abuses would be brought to justice.

Two Egyptian security sources said that while the RSF had also said it welcomed the Egyptian initiative, which includes a call for a months-long ceasefire, it had appeared reluctant to take any further steps.

“The PR advantage is with Burhan,” said a Western diplomat, adding that although Western nations see both sides of the conflict as belligerents, Burhan’s appearances outside Khartoum would shore up his status.

Both the regular army and RSF have been accused of fighting in residential areas and indiscriminately firing heavy weapons, resulting in hundreds of civilians killed in the capital and other major cities. They both deny the allegations, accusing each other of targeting civilians.

In Nyala, capital of South Darfur and one of Sudan’s most populous cities, fighting has cut off phone networks, electricity and humanitarian aid for weeks, with tens of thousands of residents trapped.

In one incident documented by medical aid agency MSF and local residents, about two dozen people, including multiple members of several families, died when caught in crossfire while hiding under a bridge on Aug. 23.

(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz in Dubai and Nafisa Eltahir and Mohamed Waly in Cairo; additional reporting by Maggie Michael; writing by Clauda Tanios and Nafisa Eltahir; editing by Jacqueline Wong, Andrew Heavens and Mark Heinrich)