ADDIS ABABA - South Sudan’s warring factions resume face-to-face peace talks on Thursday - the third such effort this year. The resumption of negotiations coincides with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's meeting with regional leaders in Addis Ababa, where they agreed on the need for a legitimate force to stabilize South Sudan.
Pressure is growing on the South Sudan government and the opposition to reach some concrete agreements at this round of talks in Ethiopia. Since the conflict erupted in mid-December, the parties have only agreed on a cease-fire - which has been largely ignored.
Seyoum Mesfin, chairman of the East African bloc IGAD mediation team, says an interim political arrangement is one of the items on the agenda.
“Which envisaged that the parties negotiate for an interim or a transitional period and which might lead them to the establishment of a national unity government for the interim period of the time frame for the interim period and the nature of the national unity government, its size and its tasks, during the interim period, this has to be negotiated by the parties,” he said.
IGAD says it is not imposing this upon the two negotiating parties, but both sides have accepted to negotiate on this topic.
South Sudan Information Minister Michael Makuei says all outstanding issues will be discussed.
“The first point on the agenda… is the strengthening of the Cessation of Hostilities and the commitment and dedication to the implementation and operationalization to the cessation of hostilities,” he said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with his counterparts from Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya Thursday in Addis Ababa on ways to facilitate an agreement. All agreed on the need for a legitimate force to be deployed. In addition, the United States has put into place a mechanism to apply travel bans or freeze assets if needed on individuals deemed as perpetuating the violence in South Sudan.
IGAD has also recently deployed monitoring and verification teams on the ground in Bor, Malakal and Bentui.
It has been three weeks since the last round of talks took place.
Seyoum Mesfin has made it clear that he wants both parties to produce concrete results.
”More killings have taken place in the country after the singing of cessation of hostilities than before. This is lack of commitment on both parties. The region and international community are saying enough is enough to this sort of breaching of agreement,” he said.
Fighting in South Sudan erupted after President Salva Kirr accused his former vice president, Riek Machar, of a coup. The violence has left thousands dead and more than a million displaced.
More people will be affected soon as a famine is looming in the country. Most farmers could not plant their fields before the upcoming rain season because of the security situation.