Kiir, Machar meeting ends with no deal in sight
Talks between President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar aimed at resolving the contentious issue of the number of states have ended without a deal.
The two men were in a closed-door meeting that lasted for several hours in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, and IGAD’s Executive Secretary Workneh Gebeyehu were present at the meeting.
Michael Makuei, South Sudan’s minister of information, told state media that the lack of a "consistent position" within the opposition SPLM-IO on the number of states had made face-to-face talks difficult.
“Dr. Riek Machar instead of standing on his 23 states, he went down again to 10. So the discussion today concentrated around the 10 states,” Makuei said.
“Our position had been clear that we are not ready to change even a single state, we are not ready to remove even a single state out of the 32 states plus Abyei,” he stressed.
Makuei, who is also the government spokesman, said the government resolved to conduct consultations with the people of South Sudan on the contentious issue of the number of states and their boundaries.
“The meeting was concluded with a note that the government will go back to South Sudan and sensitize the people and inform them about the consultations,” he explained.
According to Makuei, popular consultation is the only way to break the deadlock over the number of states and their boundaries in South Sudan.
Pouk Both Baluang, the SPLM-IO’s director for information, told Radio Tamazuj that the meeting ended with little progress toward ending the dispute over the number of states.
He said the mediators and peace guarantors have unveiled a new proposal to resolve the contentious issue of the number of states and their boundaries.
"The closed-door meeting ended with resolutions calling for a return to the original 10 states, but the president said he needs more time for consultations with his group in Juba before he comes back to Addis Ababa for another meeting on February 15," he said.
“On the issue of security arrangements, both sides agreed to discuss it extensively in the next meeting in Addis Ababa, especially the deployment of UN forces in major towns,” he added.
Pouk said the opposition feels “optimistic” on the prospect of breaking the deadlock over the number of states in the next meeting, adding that they welcome the new proposal on the return to the original 10 states.
Under the terms of the peace deal, South Sudan’s rival leaders are to create a unified army and agree on the number of states and their boundaries.
With a February 22 deadline approaching for South Sudan’s rival parties to form a unity government, regional leaders are pressuring the parties to resolve their differences.