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South Sudan's Peace Talks Set for Sunday

South Sudan's warring factions are set to begin direct negotiations, in a bid to end a spiraling conflict that has left more than 1,000 people dead.

Ethiopian Foreign Ministry spokesman Dina Mufti told VOA on Saturday that the two sides would begin face-to-face talks on Sunday.

The anticipated talks between representatives for President Salva Kiir and ex-vice president Riek Machar have been delayed several times since the two sides gathered in Addis Ababa earlier this week.

Fighting continues in South Sudan as negotiators prepare for direct talks. Government troops have been advancing on Bor, the rebel-held capital of Jonglei state.

Earlier, forces loyal to Machar said they were preparing to advance from Bor to the national capital, Juba. But in a Friday interview with "The Telegraph," Machar said his forces would hold back on attacking the capital in hopes of achieving a "negotiated settlement."

Earlier Saturday, officials in Ethiopia said talks were delayed because there was no agreement on an agenda.

So far, the two sides have spent most of their time holding separate meetings with mediators from the East African regional bloc IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development).

EU Horn of Africa representative Alexander Rondos is attending the sessions. He says the responsibility to find a solution to the conflict rests in the hands of South Sudan's political leadership.

"The leadership of South Sudan, the entire political leadership needs to find a resolution, there are no alibis, only they can find that solution. And they must do everything to help the negotiators from IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) to find that solution and very quickly."

South Sudan's unrest began in mid-December, when renegade soldiers attacked an army headquarters. President Kiir accused former vice president Machar of a coup attempt.

Machar told VOA Wednesday that President Kiir is responsible for much of the unrest. He said peace cannot be achieved under the president's leadership.

Witnesses say some of the violence is ethnically motivated, with supporters of Mr. Kiir, a member of the Dinka tribe, and supporters of Machar, from the Nuer tribe, targeting each other.