(WASHINGTON) — After intense negotiations, the Sudanese Armed Forces & Rapid Support Forces had agreed to implement a 72-hour cease-fire across the country beginning at midnight Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Monday afternoon in Washington.
Blinken added that the U.S. would “coordinate with regional and international partners, and Sudanese civilian stakeholders, to assist in the creation of a committee to oversee the negotiation, conclusion, and implementation of a permanent cessation of hostilities and humanitarian arrangements in Sudan.”
The statement comes after a successful operation over the weekend rescued dozens of U.S. embassy personnel and their families from war-torn Sudan, and top officials in Washington saying Monday they aren’t losing sight of the thousands of American citizens still believed to be in the country.
“In just the last 36 hours since the embassy evacuation operation was completed, we continue to be in close communication with U.S. citizens and individuals affiliated with the U.S. government to provide assistance and facilitate available departure routes for those seeking to move to safety via land, air and sea,” Blinken told reporters hours earlier.
While it’s unclear exactly how many Americans remain in Sudan, Blinken said officials had been in contact with “some dozens” who “expressed an interest in leaving.”
Blinken also said that the State Department was exploring ways to reestablish a diplomatic footprint in Sudan, possibly in Port Sudan — a city on the Red Sea and a destination for many fleeing intense violence in the capital, Khartoum. But Blinken cautioned it would depend on the conditions in the country, which he described as “very, very challenging.”
The secretary also said officials within the department were closely monitoring convoys transporting some Americans as well as other foreign nationals away from Khartoum.
“Some of them have encountered problems including, robbery, looting, that kind of thing,” he said.
While the Biden administration is standing by its warning that Americans in Sudan should not expect a mass evacuation, during a White House briefing on Monday national security adviser Jake Sullivan said it wasn’t completely off the table.
“There’s certainly a willingness to take steps to help Americans be able to get out of the country,” he said. “The president has asked for every conceivable option to be able to help Americans.”
Sullivan noted that conditions in the country would have to be deemed secure enough to carry out a larger operation before one could take place.
“Right now, we believe that the best way for us to help facilitate people’s departure is in fact to support this land evacuation route, as well as work with allies and partners who are working on their own evacuation plans as well,” he said.
Earlier on Monday, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said U.S. drones were watching over a United Nations-led convoy that consisted of dozens of Americans, ensuring its safety as it navigated to Port Sudan.
Volker Perthes, the U.N.’s special representative of the body’s security-general to Sudan, said the journey took 35 hours to complete.
“We had some challenges on the road. It wasn’t first class airlift, but I think it was good that we all together moved out,” Perthes said. “Thirty-five hours in a not-so-comfortable convoy is certainly better than three hours bombing and sitting under the shells.”
While the White House is continuing to advise U.S. citizens still trapped in Sudan to shelter in place, saying it’s not safe to facilitate a mass evacuation, Blinken said American officials have been able to “facilitate Americans being folded into” some convoys.
The State Department is also collecting information from Americans in Sudan through a crisis-intake form that allows citizens to indicate they want to leave the country and need assistance.
Blinken said because the majority of Americans still there are dual citizens, the State Department anticipates many won’t want to leave.
But as the fighting enters its second week, remaining in an active warzone is becoming increasing untenable for many, like a Massachusetts teacher Trillian Clifford and her 18-month-old daughter Alma.
“To think that the two of them are in this much danger is horrific. She’s telling us stories about airstrikes within a kilometer of her apartment,” Rebecca Winter, Clifford’s sister-in-law said in an interview to ABC News. “Her situation is becoming more dire every day.”
Over 420 people have already been killed during the course of the conflict, and thousands more have been injured.
Explosions have inflicted heavy damages on Sudan’s infrastructure, complicating civilians’ efforts to flee. Widespread phone and internet outages have also been reported across the country, impacting stranded individuals’ ability to communicate with embassy officials or friends and family outside of the country who can provide guidance.
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