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South Sudan Disappointed With AU Statement on Peace Deal

FILE - South Sudan's President Salva Kiir speaks to the media at a press conference in Juba, South Sudan.
FILE - South Sudan's President Salva Kiir speaks to the media at a press conference in Juba, South Sudan.

South Sudan’s government said it is disappointed with African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who reportedly warned South Sudan's warring parties will bring "disaster" on themselves and the region if no peace deal is signed to end the country’s civil war.

Information Minister Michael Makuei said Dlamini-Zuma was party to the decision by the government not to sign the document Monday in Ethiopia.

“The statement of her Excellency is really unfortunate because she was a party to the decision we made. And the government of South Sudan initialed the agreement with reservations and concerns and that, after 15 days, the government will come back and negotiate all the outstanding issues before the signing of the agreement. This was done with her full knowledge and actually I’m surprised that she’s talking as if she was not a party to all that took place in Addis,” he said.

Dlamini-Zuma reportedly said in a statement, "Deadlock in the peace process can only spell further disaster for South Sudan and its people, with far reaching implications for regional security and stability."

Makuei said Dlamini-Zuma was one of those who accepted that the deal on the table was not the final document, and in fact told the South Sudan delegation: “’Government of South Sudan, go and consult with your people and come back on the 15th day so that you can resume your negotiation with the rebels on the outstanding issues.’ How does she expect us to sign the final agreement?”

U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said Secretary of State John Kerry called South Sudan's President Salva Kiir Wednesday who assured him that he intends to sign a peace deal to end the country’s 20-month-old conflict.

“President Kiir assured the secretary that he has every intention of signing the peace agreement. He said he needed a couple of more days of consultations, but he made it very clear it was his intention to sign, which is encouraging," Kirby said.

Rebel spokesman Stephen Par Kuol told VOA this earlier this week that Kiir refused to sign Monday’s peace deal because he is afraid of power sharing. Makuei said the government did not sign the agreement because it has concerns over security arrangements. He noted it directly affects the integrity and sovereignty of the government and people of South Sudan.

“Our problem is the security arrangement which is connected with the integrity and the sovereignty of the government and people of South Sudan. It is unacceptable because it has never happened anywhere whereby the security of a state and the head of an elected government are handed over to a foreign element,” he said.

He said the former vice president and rebel leader Riek Machar has no right to dismantle an existing system and hand over the integrity and sovereignty of the state. Makuei said his government raised these concerns with the mediators during the talks in Addis Ababa, but they were “adamant.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. has circulated a draft resolution in the U.N. Security Council calling for an arms embargo and additional sanctions, if a peace agreement between the two sides is not signed within the 15-day extension.

A U.S. official said the absence of a South Sudanese government signature on August 17th agreement was "outrageous.” The official said the U.S. circulated the resolution to address the security situation on the ground and serve as an incentive for both sides to sign the peace deal.

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