NEW YORK/CAIRO - Sudan's army chief said Friday he had not sought military support on a recent regional tour and that his preference was for a peaceful solution to the conflict that has killed thousands and displaced millions of civilians.
General Abdel Fattah Burhan also said in an interview with Reuters that he had asked neighboring states to stop sending mercenaries in support of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.
War between the army and the RSF broke out in mid-April over plans for a political transition and the integration of the RSF into the army, four years after long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir was overthrown in a popular uprising.
'Every war ends in peace, whether through negotiations or force. We are proceeding on those two paths, and our preferred path is the path of negotiations,' Burhan said on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Burhan added that he believed that stalled talks by Saudi Arabia and the United States in Jeddah could still succeed.
Burhan has made a series of foreign visits in recent weeks after remaining in Sudan for the first months of the war. The purpose was to seek solutions, not military support, though he had asked other states to block external help that he asserts the RSF is receiving, he said.
'We asked our neighbors to help us monitor the borders to stop the flow of mercenaries,' Burhan said.
RSF leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, said in a video speech released Thursday to coincide with an address by Burhan to the U.N. General Assembly that he was ready for a cease-fire and political talks.
Previous claims by both sides that they want peace and are ready for cease-fires have failed to stop bloodshed.
Witnesses say the army's bombardments have caused civilian casualties and that the RSF is responsible for widespread looting, sexual violence and other abuses, as well as participating in ethnically targeted attacks in Darfur.
Burhan on Friday dismissed accusations against the army as propaganda by its rivals. The RSF has denied it is behind the violence in Darfur and will hold its men accountable for abuses.
Burhan said that army deployment in El Geneina, which suffered the worst mass killings in Darfur, has been limited, hindering their ability to respond.
The violence peaked after the governor of West Darfur was killed June 14. Burhan said he told the governor to seek protection at a military camp, but the governor rejected that.
'The armed forces present in El Geneina are not sufficient in number to spread out in every area,' he said.