South Sudan govt, rebels begin ceasefire talks

Head of the rebel delegation in Addis Ababa, Taban Deng Gai, (L) and leader of the government's delegation Nhial Deng Nhial attend the opening ceremony of South Sudan's negotiation. (Reuters)

South Sudanese rebels and a government delegation started face-to-face peace talks, aimed at ending fighting that has left the world’s newest state on the brink of a civil war, both sides said on Tuesday.

The talks in neighboring Ethiopia will focus on brokering a ceasefire to halt the three-week long outburst of ethnic violence that has killed at least a thousand people and driven 200,000 from their homes.

Talks in Ethiopia between representatives of South Sudan President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar have gotten off to a slow start. Officials said at a news conference late Monday that the two sides have agreed on rules for the talks and that they will resume Tuesday.

Despite the opening of peace talks, combat is still ongoing as U.N. peacekeepers reported fighting in the city of Bor, and the U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said that explosions were heard on Tuesday.

South Sudan has seen three weeks of violence that Kiir says began as a coup attempt Dec. 15, though Machar’s side denies the allegation. Violence began as a political dispute but has since taken on ethnic dimensions, with tribes attacking each other.

The warfare has forced an estimated 200,000 people to flee their homes in search of safety. The U.N. has said more than 1,000 people have died, a number that is believed to be a low estimate. Forces loyal to Machar have been in control of two important state capitals.

Bashir flew to Juba, South Sudan’s country capital, on Monday to meet with Kiir, a meeting the southern government said “confirms the strength of our relationship.”

(With Reuters and AP)

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:42 - GMT 06:42