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South Sudan foes ‘agree on points’, says Khartoum

Gordon Odhiambo and Agencies

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and arch-foe Riek Machar have “agreed on some points” at peace talks in Khartoum, a Sudanese minister said yesterday, raising hopes of a deal.

After East African leaders stepped up calls for an end to a brutal civil war in the world’s youngest country, a new round of Kiir-Machar talks opened Monday in Khartoum hosted by Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir.

“President Salva Kiir and Doctor Riek Machar, in a closed meeting with President Bashir, have agreed on some points,” Sudanese Foreign Minister Al-Dierdiry Ahmed told reporters.

“The details will be announced tomorrow.”

The latest push for peace in South Sudan launched by regional leaders last week in Addis Ababa comes as the two warring factions face a looming deadline to avert UN sanctions.

On Monday, Kiir and Machar had indicated their readiness to talk peace as the Khartoum dialogue opened in the presence of Bashir and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

“I have come to really bring this unnecessary war in our country to an immediate end, and I hope that Doctor Riek Machar is ready to see my point,” Kiir said.

After Tuesday’s meeting with Bashir, Machar told reporters that he needed 48 hours to consult with other South Sudanese opposition groups.

South Sudan’s war, which has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced about four million, broke out after Kiir fell out with his then deputy Machar in December 2013, dashing the optimism that accompanied its independence from Sudan just two years earlier.

The two men met last week in Addis Ababa for a first round of talks but without an agreement. Bashir offered to host the second round that is expected to last for two weeks.

Since a 2015 peace deal collapsed in July 2016 with Machar fleeing to South Africa, Kiir’s government has gained the upper hand militarily while the opposition has splintered into a myriad of factions.

A landlocked state with a large ethnic mix, South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 after a long and devastating war with Khartoum.

Among some areas agreed upon include a permanent ceasefire, cantonments for all forces and the deployment of forces by Igad and the African Union to safeguard the ceasefire.

The peace deal is being proposed by the regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). Reports in some African media say the two rivals have inked an agreement for a permanent ceasefire.

When talks began last week, it was the first time Machar had met face-to-face with his rival, Kiir, in almost two years. Machar has been under house arrest in South Africa for the last two years.

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