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IGAD: No Extra Time for Last-Chance South Sudan Peace Talks

  • John Tanza

Seyoum Mesfin (L), the lead mediator at peace talks for South Sudan, and chief negotiator for the South Sudan armed opposition, Taban Deng Gai, at an earlier round of talks for South Sudan.

Seyoum Mesfin (L), the lead mediator at peace talks for South Sudan, and chief negotiator for the South Sudan armed opposition, Taban Deng Gai, at an earlier round of talks for South Sudan.

The lead mediator on an international team trying to broker an end to the fighting in South Sudan gave the warring sides an ultimatum Thursday: sign a peace deal by the deadline because there will be no extension.

"We have all IGAD countries here, and the message they have been passing to the chief negotiators… is one and the same: you cannot leave Addis Ababa this time without signing this agreement by the 17th of August,” Ethiopian diplomat Seyoum Mesfin told reporters.

We have been circling the wagon the last 20 months. What is required of them is courage to demonstrate leadership and the political will to end this crisis.

Seyoum said the international community has lost patience with President Salva Kiir’s government and the rebel movement led by former vice president Riek Machar. He said the two sides will not be given extra time to negotiate a deal, as they were the last time they missed a deadline, in March.

“Enough is enough. It is frustration and hopelessness that is reigning in South Sudan and all over the world. There is no other chance,” Seyoum said.

Seyoum says the argument that some of the conditions in the peace agreement are too complex to expect the warring sides to hash out an agreement by Monday does not wash with him. The contentious points have been the same since the negotiations began, and there has been plenty of time to reach a compromise deal on them, the Ethiopian diplomat said.

"These complex issues, they are saying number one is the structure at the top of the (transitional) government; the second is power-sharing; the third is security arrangements; the fourth one is federation," Seyoum said.

"These, they are saying to us, are deal-breakers. But they know them from the very beginning (of the peace talks) - since January last year. Not this year, last year,” Seyoum said.

“We have been circling the wagon all the last 20 months. What is required of them is courage to demonstrate leadership and the political will to end this crisis,” he said.

Seyoum said President Kiir is expected to arrive in Addis Ababa on Friday – a day later than mediators had hoped he would come. Machar has been in the Ethiopian capital since the beginning of this week

We have all IGAD countries here, and the message they have been passing to the chief negotiators is one and the same: you cannot leave Addis Ababa this time without signing this agreement by the17th of August.

“We are late, but not too late. If they are committed and have the political will and courage,even a few hours are enough because they know the issues,” Seyoum said.

He urged Mr. Kiir and Machar to “not squander the chance to end the war and stop the killing” in South Sudan, where tens of thousands have died and more than two million have fled their homes since conflict erupted 20 months ago.

“These people don’t deserve what they are passing through. They have suffered so much… I wish them an end to this crisis. I want to see South Sudan coming back to peace and prosperity,” he said.

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