Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s president

Sudan has extended a unilateral ceasefire with rebels until the end of March, state news agency SUNA reported on Thursday, citing a presidential decree.

In October, the U.S. lifted 20-year-old sanctions tied to progress on progress on counter terrorism cooperation and on resolving internal conflicts.

Fighting between the army and rebels in the Kordofan and Blue Nile regions broke out in 2011, when South Sudan declared independence.

Conflict in Darfur began in 2003 when mainly non-Arab tribes took up arms against Sudan’s Arab-led government.

The ceasefire was set to expire at the end of December 2017.

On June 18, 2016, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir declared a comprehensive four-month ceasefire in the states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, where fighting between armed rebels and government troops has left scores of casualties.

Rebel fighters with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) have been battling government forces in the two southern states since 2011, in a conflict where neither side has managed to difinitively take control of the two areas.

The SPLM-N, the northern affiliate of the Sudan’s People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in South Sudan, took up arms in 2011 to fight against the inclusion of Blue Nile and South Kordofan in Sudan.

In late 2015, the president announced a similar ceasefire in two states and the West Darfur region, the scene of separate rebellion against the state.

The truce was extended by month at the beginning of this year, but renewed fighting quickly brought it to an end.

The SPLM-N has maintained a loose alliance with Darfuri rebels since November 2011.

The new ceasefire announced Saturday will not apply to the Darfur region, as “there was no real rebellion now” in the area, according to Brigadier Shami.

In referendum held in Darfur in April 2015, nearly 98% of voters opted to keep the region as five separate states.

According to the UN, some 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur since 2003, where the government in Khartoum has waged a brutal crackdown on an uprising led by ethnic minority rebels.

Nearly 2.7 million people have fled their homes.

President Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges related to the violence in Darfur.

He has denied the charges.