Accessibility links

Breaking News

South Sudan President Balks at Peace Deal


File - South Sudanese President Salva Kiir delivers a speech to lawmakers.
File - South Sudanese President Salva Kiir delivers a speech to lawmakers.

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir has refused to sign a peace deal aimed at ending the country's 20-month civil war.

Meditators at the talks in Addis Ababa say Kiir told them he needs 15 days before he will sign the agreement, during which time he will return home and consult with various constituencies.

His decision is the latest blow to peace talks between South Sudan's government and rebels sponsored by the East African bloc IGAD, as well as several other countries including the United States and China.

Asked by VOA if this means the fighting in South Sudan will continue, rebel spokesman Stephen Par said, "Apparently."

Rebel leader Riek Machar said he was surprised by Kiir's decision.

"To me there is no reason why he has requested for more time. He has got a good agreement. It is power sharing at all levels. Whether it is a national level, they have a lion's share; at the state level they have the lion's share. So I didn't see why he didn't sign it," said Machar.

The proposed agreement was signed Monday by Machar and the head of South Sudan's ruling party (Pagan Amum). But the deal appeared meaningless after the president rejected it.

On the government's Twitter account, Kiir said, "Peace that cannot be sustained cannot be signed."

He also wrote, "If it is signed today and then tomorrow we go back to war, then what have we achieved?"

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said the United States would look at ways to "raise the cost for intransigence" if South Sudan does not sign the peace agreement.

British diplomat Tobia Ellwood, who attended the talks in Ethiopia, said, "It has been a long day, but we are not there yet. So we call upon the government of South Sudan to add its signature in full, which we hope will happen as soon as possible."

South Sudan's war erupted in December 2013 following a political dispute between President Kiir and Machar, his former deputy.

The United Nations says the war has since displaced more than 2.2 million people - 1.5 million internally and 730,000 to neighboring countries. The U.N. mission in the country says it is sheltering nearly 200,000 civilians on its bases.