Sudanese paramilitary force backs ceasefire and talks on country's future

Deputy head of Sudan's sovereign council General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo speaks during a press conference in Khartoum

CAIRO (Reuters) - Sudan's paramilitary Rapid Support Forces said it was open to a long-term ceasefire with the army and presented its vision for a "Sudan Reborn", an initiative that could revive efforts to hold direct talks between the warring parties.

The statement came as fighting between the RSF and the army enters its 20th week with no side claiming victory while millions have been driven from their homes in the capital and other cities.

The United Nations has warned of a "humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions", with rising hunger, collapsing healthcare, and wrecked infrastructure. The RSF and allied militias have also been accused of ethnic cleansing in West Darfur.

The two sides blame each other for starting the war on April 15, after weeks of tension over the integration of their troops into a single force as part of a transition to democracy.

The two sides led the country together since toppling Omar al-Bashir in 2019 and pushing civilian politicians out of the government in a coup in 2021.

In the statement released late on Sunday, RSF leader General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo appeared willing to negotiate with the army over the shape of the future Sudanese state, going beyond the technicalities of a permanent ceasefire which have hindered Saudi and U.S.-sponsored mediation efforts.

"Efforts to end the protracted crisis must be directed toward achieving a lasting ceasefire, coupled with comprehensive political solutions that address the root causes of Sudan's wars," the statement said.

Under his "Sudan Reborn" plan, Dagalo committed the RSF to previously floated principles such as federal, multicultural rule, democratic elections, and a single army.

The statement came after army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan arrived on Sunday in Port Sudan on his first trip outside the capital since fighting broke out. Government sources say he will travel to Saudi Arabia and Egypt for talks.

Pro-democracy politicians warned Burhan against announcing a new government, saying it would prompt the RSF to form a parallel authority.

Regional mediators have appeared to accept a future role for soldiers in a transitional government.

But on Friday, the ambassador of the United States, one of the main sponsors of the post-Bashir transition, wrote on X that "the belligerents, who have demonstrated they are not fit to govern, must end the conflict and transfer power to a civilian transitional government".

(Reporting by Nafisa Eltahir in Cairo and Khalid Abdelaziz in Dubai; Editing by Giles Elgood)