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U.S., regional mediators meet rebels in South Sudan

The meeting comes as talks in the Ethiopian capital, aimed at reaching a ceasefire agreement, appear to be stalled

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U.S. and regional mediators in the South Sudan conflict met Saturday with the head of the rebel forces fighting against government troops, Riek Machar, the rebel delegation said.

“The American Special envoy to South Sudan and Sudan, Donald Booth together with [regional] mediators travelled to an undisclosed location in South Sudan to meet Dr. Riek Machar,” said a statement, received Sunday by Agence France-Presse and signed by Machar’s former press officer Miyong G. Kuon.

The meeting comes as talks in the Ethiopian capital, aimed at reaching a ceasefire agreement, appear to be stalled. Regional mediators have been trying to incorporate the proposals of both sides into a draft ceasefire document, reported AFP.

Fighting in South Sudan erupted on Dec. 15 as President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of attempting a coup. Machar then accused Kiir of using the coup accusation as an excuse to carry out a purge of his opponents.

The biggest stumbling block in negotiations seems to be that of 11 Machar sympathizers who were arrested by forces loyal to Kiir shortly after the fighting began.

Machar’s side has insisted the 11 should be released to take part in the talks, while Kiir’s side is equally adamant they should remain under arrest.