The parties to South Sudan’s conflict have begun a series of workshops in Addis Ababa on how to make the recently signed peace deal work.
Haile Michael, a spokesman for regional bloc IGAD, which spent nearly two years brokering the peace deal, said negotiators for President Salva Kiir’s government, for Riek Machar’s opposition movement, for the former political detainees and other stakeholders in South Sudan’s peace process, are attending the workshops.
The key topics of discussion at the workshops are the drawdown of forces, the establishment of demilitarized zones, cantonment areas for troops from both sides, and the size of security forces that will be deployed in four towns, including the capital, Juba, after they are demilitarized.
Haile Michael said participants discussed many of those key topics on the first two days of the talks.
Everything that is being discussed at the workshops is included in the peace deal brokered by IGAD and signed last month by all sides.
Haile Michael said the workshops in Addis are the "most critical phase of negotiations" because if the workshop participants cannot agree on security arrangements and demilitarization of towns that have been flashpoints in South Sudan’s 20-month conflict, bringing lasting peace to the country will be difficult, if not impossible.
President Kiir’s spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny told VOA this weekend that the government expects that the workshops will lead to full implementation of the peace deal.
Ateny said President Kiir will address the nation Tuesday to ask that "all the citizens of South Sudan cooperate with the government to ensure the full implementation of the agreement ."
The peace agreement for South Sudan was signed on August 17 by Machar for the SPLM-in-Opposition, and by Pagan Amum for the group of former detainees. President Kiir raised several objections to the deal and only signed it nine days later, on Aug. 26.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has invited both President Kiir and Machar to take part in a heads of state meeting in New York at the end of this month. The aim of the meeting, which will be held on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, will be to galvanize international support for implementation of the South Sudan peace deal, Ban said in the invitation.