Sudanese paramilitary force says ready to cooperate over Egyptian troops

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The head of Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) said on Saturday that his forces were ready to cooperate with Egypt to ease the return of Egyptian troops who had handed themselves over to the group in the northern Sudanese town of Merowe.

Two Egyptian security sources said Egyptian officials were able to make contact with the leader of the Egyptian unit to confirm they were safe.

After clashes erupted across Sudan between the RSF and the army, the RSF shared a video they said showed Egyptian troops who had “surrendered” to them in the Merowe, about halfway between the Sudanese capital Khartoum and the border with Egypt. Egypt’s military said Egyptian forces were in Sudan to conduct exercises with their Sudanese counterparts, and that it was coordinating with Sudanese authorities to guarantee their safety.

The video showed a number of men dressed in army fatigues crouched on the ground and speaking to members of the RSF, Sudan’s main paramilitary group, in an Egyptian Arabic dialect.

RSF leader General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Hemedti, told Sky News Arabia TV that the Egyptian soldiers were safe, and that the RSF had provided them with food and water and was ready to facilitate their return.

A mobilization of RSF forces towards Merowe’s military airport on Wednesday prompted an army statement a day later that described recent RSF moves as illegal, bringing long-bubbling disagreements to the surface.

Egypt has long been wary of political change in Sudan. It strongly supports Sudan’s army and has recently promoted negotiations with pro-army political parties, in parallel to a plan for a transition towards elections backed by Hemedti.

Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi received a call from UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, during which Sisi expressed his concern for events in Sudan and called for dialogue, according to a statement from the presidency.

The country’s foreign minister Sameh Shoukry received a call from EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell to coordinate on events in Sudan, the foreign ministry said. Shoukry discussed Egypt’s efforts to stop the violence, which Borrell said the EU supported, the statement said.

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