ADDIS ABABA —
South Sudan's warring parties are meeting once again in Ethiopia for peace talks, in what mediators have said will be the last round of negotiations.
South Sudan has 10 more days to reach a lasting peace and power-sharing deal.
Both the African Union and the East African bloc (IGAD) have repeatedly threatened South Sudan's factions with sanctions if no comprehensive power sharing deal is reached by March 5.
IGAD's lead mediator, Seyoum Mesfin, called this round of negotiations the final opportunity for South Sudan.
“After months of negotiations, you are all well aware of what must be achieved now. Genuine compromise and dialogue must take place," Mesfin said. "The agreed March 5 deadline to conclude negotiations must be respected, so that the pre-transitional period can begin on April 1, and the Transitional Government of National Unity formed no later than July 9 of this year.”
Other items on the agenda for this round of talks, besides establishing the transitional government of national unity, are security, economy, justice and humanitarian affairs. There is also a committee dealing with leadership and governance issues.
Reaffirm commitment to peace
Both sides at the start of the talks reaffirmed their commitment to peace.
Several deals have been signed since January 2014, including a cessation of hostilities agreement. But IGAD said there are verified reports that both sides have violated the cease-fire.
It is expected the United Nations Security Council will consider a resolution on South Sudan this week, including the possibilities of sanctions.
South Sudan's Information Minister Michael Makuei said sanctions will only complicate things.
“The sanctions will not do anything other than adding more suffering to the people of South Sudan. Calling for sanctions, it is not a solution, it is a complicating factor and I am sure that those who call for sanctions are people who are not genuinely wishing South Sudan peace," Makuei said.
The conflict started in December 2013 between soldiers of President Salva Kirr and troops loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar.
The two leaders will face each other again later this week. Their last meeting, at the end of the African Union Summit in January, did not result in any real outcome.