[QODLink]
Africa

S Sudan rivals to start face-to-face talks

Amid ongoing clashes between rebels and government forces, observers say ceasefire is needed to prevent civil war.

Last updated: 05 Jan 2014 09:06
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback

South Sudanese rebels and government negotiators are set to begin their first face-to-face talks, in an effort to thrash out a ceasefire deal to end weeks of fighting in the country.

The talks were set to start on Sunday after several days of delay, and have been overshadowed by continued clashes between President Salva Kiir's SPLA government forces and rebels loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar.

"We envisage a rapid agreement of the cessation of hostilities and ceasefire arrangements in order to create a conducive atmosphere for addressing outstanding political issues," government representative Niag Deng Nial said at a ceremonial opening to the talks at a luxury hotel in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa on Saturday.

Follow our in-depth coverage of South Sudan

"Our people have suffered a lot during the struggle for our independence and they should not suffer again in our hands," he added.

The talks will focus on when and how to roll out the ceasefire that both sides have agreed to in principle, though neither has indicated a start date.

The head of the rebel delegation, Taban Deng Gai, has repeated Machar's call for the release of several senior politicians allied to the former vice president and for the state of emergency imposed by Kiir in two regions of South Sudan to be lifted.

"With the current mass killing going on in the country and political detention, there can be no conducive atmosphere for peace talks," he said.

Fears of civil war

Western and regional powers, many of which supported the negotiations that led to South Sudan's independence from Sudan in 2011, are pressing for a peace deal, fearing the new fighting could slide into civil war and destabilise east Africa.

US Secretary of State John Kerry voiced support for direct South Sudanese peace talks set to begin on Sunday and cautioned against any use of force to try to gain the upper hand.

"Both parties need to put the interest of South Sudan above their own," Kerry told reporters in Jerusalem.

Peace talks had been delayed for days because the two sides were unable to agree upon an agenda, officials said. The slow start is a worrying sign for South Sudan, which has been embroiled in violence for weeks, with Kiir accusing Machar of an attempted coup.

Clashes have already killed more than 1,000 people, driven 200,000 from their homes and rattled oil markets.

Forces loyal to Machar now control two state capitals, including the strategically located town of Bor.

On Saturday, the South Sudanese army battled to wrest back control of Bor, with reports of intense battles involving tanks and artillery.

454

Source:
Agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Muslim volunteers face questioning and threat of arrest, while aid has been disrupted or blocked, charities say.
Six months on, outrage and sorrow over the mass schoolgirl abduction has disappeared - except for families in Nigeria.
ISIL combatants seeking an 'exit strategy' from Mideast conflict need positive reinforcement back home, analysts say.
European nation hit by a wave of Islamophobia as many young fighters join ISIL in Syria and Iraq.
Featured
Lacking cohesive local ground forces to attack in tandem, coalition air strikes will have limited effect, experts say.
Hindu right-wing groups run campaign against what they say is Muslim conspiracy to convert Hindu girls into Islam.
Six months on, outrage and sorrow over the mass schoolgirl abduction has disappeared - except for families in Nigeria.
Muslim caretakers maintain three synagogues in eastern Indian city, which was once home to a thriving Jewish community.
Amid fresh ISIL gains, officials in Anbar province have urged the Iraqi government to request foreign ground troops.