JUBA - The South Sudanese government and its main rivals in the seven-month conflict on Thursday welcomed the news that peace talks are due to resume next week after a month-long break.
"The government strongly believes that peace will not come through the muzzle of a gun," South Sudanese Information Minister Michael Makuei told South Sudan in Focus.
"We will continue to negotiate with the rebels with the objective of achieving permanent peace," he said.
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) issued a statement on Wednesday announcing that peace talks for South Sudan are due to resume next week and will run from July 30 until August 10.
South Sudan has been mired in conflict since December, when a political dispute within the country’s ruling party, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), turned violent.
Six months of peace efforts led by IGAD have produced a cessation of hostilities agreement, but it was violated almost from the day it was signed in January.
Last month the IGAD-mediated talks stalled when opposition negotiators boycotted the opening session. A spokesman for the opposition said they did not show up because a request that the negotiations should include representatives of people displaced by the conflict and groups that have fled Juba fell on deaf ears.
Opposition leader Riek Machar told South Sudan in Focus that, this time, he has been given assurances by IGAD that "...those who flee the country because of fear for their lives... will be given a chance to be selected and be involved in the peace process."
Government 'in search of peace'
Makuei said the government is optimistic a deal will be reached with the rebels when the talks resume.
"We are in search of peace and, in the course of that search for peace, we are ready to negotiate with anybody, anywhere, anytime,” Makuei said.
The focus of the negotiations will be to come up with a binding cessation of hostilities agreement and to work out the details of the transitional government of national unity.
President Salva Kiir and Machar agreed at the beginning of June to set up a transitional govenrment within 60 days. The deadline for doing so will fall during the round of talks that is due to get under way next week. No work has been done so far on setting up the interim government.