World Bulletin / News Desk
South Sudan's warring rivals on Tuesday agreed a 60-day timeline to form a transitional government, in a new step to solve the conflict in the world's newest state.
Speaking at an extraordinary summit of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a trading bloc of East African nations, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said the two rivals agreed on the timeline to prepare conditions that would lead to the formation of a transitional government.
He thanked both President Salva Kiir and his main rival Riek Machar for showing willingness to solve their differences.
The agreement came during an IGAD extraordinary summit in Addis Ababa to discuss developments in South Sudan.
Speaking on behalf of the Troika – the U.S, U.K and Norway – former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia Donald Booth said that "This summit offers the last best chance".
"We the troika believe that South Sudan can find solutions for the things that divide them," he said, going on to call on the South Sudanese rivals to remain committed to the implementation of last month's peace deal to end the conflict in the nascent country.
South Sudan's warring rivals signed an IGAD-mediated peace deal in Addis Ababa in May, following a January cessation of hostilities agreement. Neither deal, however, succeeded in ending ongoing hostility by both sides.
Earlier, East African states threatened to slap South Sudan's warring sides with sanctions unless they cease all military operations in a conflict which has sparked fears that it could spiral into genocide.
"If they don't abide to this agreement, IGAD as an organisation will act to implement peace in South Sudan. On that, we have different options including sanctions and (other) punitive actions as well," said Hailemariam.
It is the first time that South Sudan's neighbours have issued such a warning, indicating growing frustration in a region increasingly concerned that the unrest may escalate into a broader regional conflict.
Washington has already imposed measures. The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Peter Gadet, an army commander loyal to Machar, and Major-General Marial Chanuong, head of Kiir's presidential guard.
The designation freezes any of their assets in the United States and blocks American nationals or companies from dealing with them.
Fears of a descent into genocide grew after the United Nations said the rebels had massacred hundreds of civilians in Bentiu in April. Residents of Bor, a predominantly Dinka town, attacked members of the Nuer ethnic group camped in a U.N. base soon afterwards.
Oil output, South Sudan's economic lifeline, has been cut by a third to about 160,000 barrels per day since fighting began.
The U.N. peacekeeping department has had to boost the number of troops and police and alter its mandate to make protecting civilians a top priority for the U.N. mission in South Sudan, known as UNMISS.
Last month, U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said China planned to send a battalion of troops to join UNMISS, along with additional soldiers from Rwanda, Ethiopia and Kenya, who are expected to join the mission.
Fighting erupted in South Sudan in December after months of tensions sparked by Kiir's decision to fire longtime rival Machar from his post as deputy president. Deep ethnic divisions also have fuelled the violence, pitting Kiir's Dinka people against Machar's Nuer group.
Hundreds of thousands have since been displaced by subsequent fighting, while the conflict has created a serious humanitarian crisis for large swathes of South Sudan's population.Last Mod: 11 Haziran 2014, 10:59