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South Sudanese Warring Parties Set for Direct Talks

South Sudan's government and rebels have agreed to start face-to-face talks Tuesday, after days of disagreement over the format and agenda of the negotiations.

A spokesman for Ethiopia's foreign ministry told VOA says a cease-fire will be on the agenda at the peace talks in Ethiopia as well as several other issues.



"Definitely, a cease-fire will be on top of the agenda. The release of the detainees -- there are some people who have been detained by the government side. The opening of the humanitarian corridor, because there was huge dislocation of the population. And other pertinent issues."



Negotiators for both the government and rebels expressed optimism for the talks. Rebel lead negotiator General Tabang Deng Gai said his group, which is a splinter group of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, has disagreed with the government. However, he said reconciliation is not out of reach.



"We have come here as members of the SPLM/SPLA to come and discuss peace with our brothers. We are from the same family; we are all from the SPLM. They are leading the government, we are in the SPLM. We have disagreed and we believe that we can achieve a full reconciliation that will mean a meaningful reconciliation to both parties and to our people in the republic of South Sudan."



In another development, Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir visited South Sudan Monday, and pledged his government will not support rebels in its southern neighbor.





Mr. Bashir thanked South Sudanese President Salva Kiir for a "warm welcome" and went on to say Sudan will never support rebels against any neighboring government. He said that "would only cause instability, exhaustion of resources and destruction of ties between countries."

In the past, the two Sudans have accused each other of supporting rebels on the other's territory.

Also Monday, China called for an immediate end to hostilities in South Sudan, where three weeks of political and ethnic violence has killed more than 1,000 people and displaced about 200,000 from their homes.

Chinese companies have major investments in South Sudan's oil industry.

South Sudan's unrest began December 15 when renegade soldiers attacked an army headquarters. President Kiir accused Machar of a coup attempt. Machar has called for the army to overthrow the president.

Witnesses say some of the violence is ethnically motivated, with supporters of Mr. Kiir, a member of the Dinka tribe, and supporters of Machar, from the Nuer tribe, targeting each other.

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