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South Sudan rivals urged to negotiate

U.S. calls on President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar to begin mediated political talks

Published: Updated:

South Sudan President Salva Kiir and his sacked vice president turned rebel leader Riek Machar must begin mediated political talks and “accept a cessation of hostilities,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged on Tuesday.

In a statement, Kerry called on both men to begin dialogue, following several clashes this week between Machar and Kiir’s forces.

Machar has this week said he is ready for talks and has formed a delegation, while Kiir has said he too is ready for talks “without preconditions,” in a meeting on Monday in Juba with U.S. special envoy Donald Booth.

Booth was still in the South Sudanese capital on Tuesday to “attempt to secure final commitment” from both men to begin talks, the State Department said.

“The United States urges all parties in the crisis in South Sudan to implement an immediate cessation of hostilities,” it said.

“This will offer critical humanitarian access to populations in dire need and open a space for a mediated political dialogue between the opposing sides.”

The United States has been very active on the diplomatic front as tensions have risen, with President Barack Obama making several statements, Kerry working the phones and Booth in the region.

Some 400 Americans have been evacuated from South Sudan, and the US military deployed a special Marine Corps unit and aircraft to the Horn of Africa to prepare for possible further evacuations.

On Tuesday, the U.N. Security Council voted to temporarily increase the U.N. peacekeeping force in conflict-torn South Sudan to 12,500 troops from 7,000, a nearly 80 percent increase.

The resolution adopted unanimously by the U.N.’s most powerful body will also increase the U.N.’s international police contingent from 900 to 1,323.

Thousands of South Sudanese have been killed in the violence, with reports of bodies piled in mass graves, the U.N. said Tuesday.

(With AFP and AP)