Sudan's Bashir orders six-month ceasefire extension in three regions
Sudan on Sunday extended a ceasefire for six months in the war-torn regions of Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan, official media said.
"The cabinet headed by President Omar al-Bashir decided to extend the ceasefire by six months," Sudan's official news agency reported.
In June, Bashir declared a unilateral four-month truce in the three regions, where fighting between government forces and rebels has killed tens of thousands of people.
He extended it in October to the end of the year and again for a month on 31 December.
After the second extension, Bashir also invited rebel leaders from the three regions to join his National Dialogue talks in Khartoum.
"Extending the ceasefire agreement helps enhance the atmosphere of national reconciliation," he said at the time.
"Providing dialogue with the armed movements creates the opportunity for them to think positively about renouncing violence and joining the peace process."
The National Dialogue programme was launched in October 2015 and aims to end the violence of Sudan's almost two decades of civil war. The majority of Sudan's opposition groups have boycotted the talks.
In October 2016, the US government expressed concern over the lack of inclusion of opposition voices, particularly from the country's southern regions.
"We believe it is equally important to strive for a representative and comprehensive national dialogue with participation from political and armed opposition, for a sustainable end to Sudan's internal crises," spokesmanJohn Kirby said at the time.
The conflict in Darfur - a region the size of France - erupted in 2003 when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against Bashir's Arab-dominated government, accusing it of marginalising the region.
Similar conflicts also erupted in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states after neighbouring South Sudan broke away in 2011.
At least 300,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced in Darfur since the conflict began, the UN says.