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South Sudan Peace Talks Take Another Break

FILE - South Sudan Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin.

A South Sudan official is describing the latest break in the on again, off again peace talks between the government and rebels loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar as merely a consultative recess.

Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said the break would allow negotiators to consult with their principals on some of the sticking points in the talks.

“What has happened is that the negotiators have been asked to go back to their principals to consult on some of the issues where there is some concurrence. Some people seemed to agree on certain points. So they have to go back and consult with the principals. They will resume on the 15th of this month,” he said.

The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the regional group that has been mediating the talks, had given both sides 45 days from last August to work out the details of a transitional government which recognizes President Salva Kiir as President of South Sudan and called on Machar’s rebels to nominate someone for the position of prime minister.

Benjamin said whatever disagreements may remain have nothing to do with formation of an interim government.

“The interim government will be formed once you have a political solution. There must be a political agreement so that you have an interim government to implement what has been agreed upon. In principle that has been accepted by the government,” Benjamin said.

He again accused rebels of intransigence during the 10 month-long negotiations.

“You cannot blame the government that has signed the protocol which formed the basis for negotiations. It is the rebels who refused to sign that protocol; it is the rebels who are violating the cessation of hostilities on the ground,” Benjamin said.

Last August, IGAD chair Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn accused both the government and the rebels of deliberately violating the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement, thereby preventing the IGAD-led peace process from achieving a sustainable political settlement to the conflict.

IGAD threatened in August to hold responsible any party which tries to obstruct the negotiations.

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