South Sudan government negotiators and rebel representatives have met for a fifth round of peace talks since fighting broke out in the world’s newest country in December.
As delegates gathered for talks in neighbouring Ethiopia on Monday, rampaging armed forces in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state battled deserting soldiers for a second day.
Peace talks have been on and off for months between the government and rebels loyal to the former vice president. The potential onset of mass hunger is adding additional pressure for a long-term solution to the stand-off.
Global aid leaders have warned that hundreds of thousands of people in South Sudan face severe hunger because of the fighting. More than 1 million people fled their homes after the fighting broke out, and many families were not able to plant crops during the spring planting season.
Salva Kiir, South Sudan’s president, directed his delegation to go to the talks in Ethiopia and come back with peace, according to a post on the government Twitter feed.
The meeting’s key agenda is to finalise and sign a previously agreed to cease-fire deal. The two sides have agreed to finalise their agreement by next Monday.
Regional governments and others must ensure that the latest talks yield meaningful results and that both parties lay down their weapons, said Tariq Riebl, international aid organisation Oxfam’s South Sudan director.
Riebl also said a roadmap that leads to a transitional government was needed, and called on the international community to help South Sudan avoid the possible onset of famine.