South Sudan’s rebel leader Riek Machar met Wednesday with President Salva Kiir in Addis Ababa – the first time in nearly two years – as part of talks to try to negotiate an end to a five-year civil war, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister’s chief of staff said on Twitter.
“The PM Abiy Ahmed hosted a private dinner to President Salva Kiir and Dr Rieck Machar together,” Fitsum Arega said.
“Faced with the continued suffering in SouthSudan, Ethiopia simply can’t stand by. With more work, a peaceful future is possible,” Arega added.
Kiir and Machar met individually with Abiy before the three sat down together, South Sudanese opposition party officials and western diplomats said.
The Kiir and Machar meeting in Addis is the first between the two since a peace deal between the government and Machar’s rebel group fell apart in August 2016.
Both leaders continued meeting into the night and were expected to continue discussions on Thursday.
Activists have urged the two sides to reach a sustainable peace agreement.
At this critical moment where our nationhood and our collective future is at stake, we remind you of your moral and political obligations to meaningfully reconcile with each other as well as with all other political leaders in our country
Ethiopia invited them for talks as pressure grows to end a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people and created Africa’s largest refugee crisis since the 1994 Rwanda genocide.
Machar had been held under house arrest in South Africa since late 2016 after fleeing South Sudan.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the civil war that broke out in late 2013 when troops loyal to Machar, the former vice president of South Sudan, launched a rebellion against the government.
The United Nations and other organisations have accused all sides in the complex and multifaceted war of committing atrocities against civilians.
The oil-producing nation gained independence in 2011 from north Sudan but fighting broke out two years later.