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South Sudan Rebels Commit to New Peace Deal

FILE - South Sudan's rebel leader Riek Machar speaks about the situation in South Sudan following last week's peace agreement with the government, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Aug. 31, 2015.

South Sudan rebels loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar say they are committed to the implementation of the peace deal signed last month in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

This came as a three-day workshop on transitional security arrangements in South Sudan gets under way Saturday in Addis Ababa.

Ambassador Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, the secretary for foreign affairs of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), said the rebels are committed to a peaceful and democratic South Sudan and have selected a team of officers to attend the security arrangements workshop.

“We are committed to this peace, and we have selected 11 senior army officers to attend this workshop in Addis Ababa on the fifth of September to the eighth of September,” he said.

Gatkuoth said the rebels are happy and appreciative of President Salva Kiir for finally signing the agreement. He said rebel leader Machar signed the deal first because he believes it is the best workable agreement.

“This is the best compromise that we can use to transform South Sudan. It is workable; it is implementable; the letter is there and we are asking for the spirit because you can have a very good agreement, but if the spirit is not there, it will not work,” Gatkuoth said.

He said the rebels are now asking the South Sudan government to commit to making the agreement work.

Gatkuoth said a functional government of national unity will be in place by November this year and Machar will be sworn in to assume his responsibility as the First Vice President of South Sudan.

“We have a pre-transitional period, which is exactly three months," said Gatkuoth. "By November this year, you will have a functional government of national unity. So the transitional government of national unity will be sworn by November. My leader definitely will assume his responsibility as the First Vice President of South Sudan,” he added.

Under the agreement signed by President Kiir and rebel leader Machar, a cease-fire was due to take effect last weekend, but fighting has continued in parts of the country. The rebels have accused South Sudan government forces of violating the latest cease-fire, an accusation South Sudan denies.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called President Salva Kiir on Thursday.

"Secretary Kerry spoke with President Kiir today and expressed concern regarding recent cease-fire violations," a senior State Department official said. "President Kiir confirmed to the secretary that he is committed to the implementation of the peace agreement and the cease-fire."

The official said Kerry underscored that the United States would work to support the implementation of the peace agreement and continue to provide humanitarian aid.

The U.N. Security Council is to meet Friday behind closed doors at the request of the United States to discuss the latest developments in the South Sudan crisis.

The U.N. has already threatened to impose sanctions on any parties impeding the latest compromise agreement to end South Sudan’s nearly two-year civil war.