Sudan extends ceasefire with rebels until year-end: statement

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan has extended until the end of this year a three-year-old unilateral ceasefire with rebels fighting in three parts of the country, the presidential palace said on Thursday, as Khartoum pushes to end years of civil war and improve its economy.

Thousands of people have been killed in Sudan’s civil wars, including the conflict in the western Darfur region, where rebels have been fighting against President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s government since 2003.

“President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has issued a presidential decision to extend the ceasefire in all fields of operations until December 31, 2018,” the presidential palace said in a statement.

Ceasefires have been in place in Darfur and the states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile since 2015. Bashir last extended them in March for three months.

The fighting in Darfur has subsided over the past three years. In South Kordofan and Blue Nile, members of the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) have kept up a fight against Khartoum’s rule even as most of the territory where the SPLA fought for decades became independent South Sudan in 2011.

Bashir has been pushing to end the conflicts in his country as part of efforts to improve the economy, which has suffered more since the south seceded, taking with it three-quarters of oil output.

The president, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague on charges filed in 2008 over the deaths and persecution of ethnic groups in Darfur between 2003 and 2008, has continued his travels abroad.

Bashir participated in the inauguration of re-elected Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Monday and was due to travel to Moscow on Friday. The statement said Bashir would join 25 heads of state who were expected to attend the World Cup final.

Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz, writing by Sami Aboudi, editing by Gareth Jones