South Sudan ceasefire deal gets U.S. approval

Rival leaders agreed to establish a 'transitional government of national unity' that will lead to new elections

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The United States welcomed a ceasefire agreement on Friday between South Sudan’s president and a rebel leader, saying it holds hopes to end the months-long conflict.

Friday’s deal between South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar took place in Ethiopia, marking the two men's first face-to-face meeting since violence erupted in mid-December following a long power struggle.

The agreement, announced by the African regional bloc IGAD Friday, vows to end nearly five months of civil war, under international pressure to stem bloodshed and avert famine and genocide.

U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice hailed the deal, saying it “holds the promise of bringing the crisis to an end.”

Rice urged that Kiir and Machar follow up on the new peace deal by “ending the violence and negotiating in good faith to reach a political agreement.”

Meanwhile, a statement by the spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanded that both sides “immediately translate these commitments into action on the ground.”

Friday's meeting in Addis Ababa came a week after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Kiir to urge a revitalization of peace talks.

“This bleeding will stop,” Kiir said at the signing Friday. “Nobody will again open fire on another person.”

“I hope the other side will be serious,” Machar said.

Kiir and Machar have agreed to establish a “transitional government of national unity” that will lead to new elections, the IGAD statement said.

The two also agreed to meet again in a month, while IGAD leads talks on the terms of the transition.

IGAD said the deal means “an immediate cessation of hostilities within 24 hours of the signing” and “unhindered humanitarian access” to all people affected by the months-long conflict.

Thousands of people have been killed since the ethnically targeted violence broke out in December, which also forced more than 1.3 million people to flee their homes.

[with AP]

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