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JUBA - 31 Dec 2014

Parties expected to reach truce deal in South Sudan

President Salva Kiir of South Sudan and his rival ex-vice president Riek Machar are expected to agree soon on a cessation of hostilities, according to mediators.

Diplomatic sources specified that the deal has not been finalized, suggesting it would be worked out in talks in Addis Ababa. Nor was there confirmation from Machar's camp that they have agreed to the ceasefire, and just days ago the opposition leader expressed reservations in an interview with BBC. 

But both sides have appointed negotiators for the talks, which are being brokered by the former CPA negotiator, Kenyan general and IGAD envoy, Lazaro Sumbeiywo. 

The IGAD mediation said in a press statement on Tuesday that Sumbeiywo was in contact with both Machar and Kiir about the talks.

“He commends both parties for the commitment to a cessation of hostilities and in appointing their respective teams to commence negotiations,” the statement read.

“The talks will focus on a monitored ceasefire followed by further dialogue aimed at solving the underlying political problems that led to the emergence of the present confrontation,” it added.

US Special Envoy Donald Booth said he met the South Sudanese president today for the fourth time since the crisis began. “I have also spoken with Dr. Riek Machar and senior officials of IGAD,” he added.

Booth disclosed that “opposition forces aligned with Riek Machar have agreed to send teams to Addis Ababa today to begin talks.”

Ethiopia’s foreign ministry confirmed in a statement on its website that representatives of the two sides would arrive in Addis Ababa later today. 

The wording of the statement suggested that the truce deal was not yet finalized: “The two sides are expected to reach an agreement on the cessation of hostilities and peaceful resolution of the current political crisis.”

Likewise, the US envoy called the commencement of talks “a first step” toward achieving a cessation of hostilities.

Photo: US Special Envoy Donald Booth speaks to reporters (US Embassy Juba)