By Sudan Tribune,
The South Sudanese government has accused the chief mediator in its ongoing talks, Seyoum Mesfin of dictating terms ahead the deadline set for a final peace deal to end the 20-months old conflict in the world’s youngest nation.
Addressing reporters in Addis Ababa on Saturday, information minister Michael Makuei said peace negotiations is a process that does not require a deadline.
“If you move away from mediation and become a dictator, then you are not a mediator,” he said.
“We have attended so many mediations and they have not been that way. Peace talks is not an event but a processes and if it is a processes then there is no way of setting a deadline,” the minister told the state-owned SSTV.
The chief mediator was quoted Thursday saying that “negotiators from the government and the rebels would not leave Ethiopia without reaching a peace deal by 17 August.”
President Salva Kiir was due to meet rebel leader in the Ethiopian, but did not travel to the venue of the talks. The government announced Friday that the South Sudanese leader would skip the meeting ahead of a briefing from its lead negotiator, Nhial Deng Nhial.
The mediators, according to the South Sudanese information minister, were going off track by not allowing the country’s two main warring parties to negotiate a peace deal.
“What can be done is to know areas of differences and bridge them, not to add what you think. South Sudan is a sovereign nation and member state of regional and international organisations. The language of threat made by the mediator is actually undermines IGAD as an organisation,” he added.
Meanwhile, president Kiir has summoned another emergency meeting of ministers and the 10 state governors, SSTV announced. It is not clear what the agenda for Sunday’s meeting will be amid speculations of the president’s planned trip to the Ethiopian capital.
UK Minister Warns
The United Kingdom (UK) Minister for Africa, Grant Shapps issued a statement reminding the South Sudanese warring factions of the thousands killed and millions displaced. He urged the country’s leaders to reach a peace agreement by the 17 August deadline.
“If this opportunity is not seized by South Sudan’s government and opposition we would need to consider other options, including the African Union’s earlier call for targeted sanctions and a UN arms embargo,” partly reads the statement issued on Sunday.
“South Sudan’s leaders must make the necessary compromises to reach agreement, end the fighting and move their country forward”, it added.
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S. Sudan President Heads to Peace Talks as Deadline Looms
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir headed to peace talks aimed at brokering an end to civil war Sunday, reversing an earlier decision as international threats of possible sanctions mount.
However, while Cabinet Minister Elia Lomuro said that Kiir would join rebel leaders and regional presidents at the talks in neighbouring Ethiopia, it would not be possible to sign a full peace deal until all opposition factions could join the agreement.
Kiir will “explain to his colleagues the challenges that are now confronting the signing of the proposed signing of the compromise peace agreement,” Lomuro told reporters in the South Sudanese capital Juba, before Kiir flew to Addis Ababa.
South Sudan’s government and rebels are under intense diplomatic pressure to sign a deal by August 17 to end a 20-month civil war in which tens of thousands of people have been killed.
Kiir previously said he would send his deputy after complaining it was not possible to strike an effective deal because rebel forces have split.
But on Sunday he decided to go himself after consultations with regional leaders, who have already arrived in Addis Ababa for the summit meeting on Monday.
On Sunday, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who has sent troops into South Sudan to back Kiir, held talks with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta is also in Addis Ababa.
“There is hope, as long as all of us want peace,” Lomuro said, after reporters asked if a deal would be signed on Monday.
Not Afraid of Sanctions
South Sudan’s civil war began in December 2013 when Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of planning a coup, setting off a cycle of retaliatory killings that has split the poverty-stricken, landlocked country along ethnic lines.
On Tuesday, rebel generals said they had split from Machar.
“Riek Machar has already been ousted and disowned by his own army and politicians,” Lomuro added.
“If we are to sign peace then we have to sign a peace with all the factions and all the groups that are fighting.”
The latest round of talks opened on August 6, mediated by the regional eight-nation bloc IGAD, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, as well as the United Nations, African Union, China and the “troika” of Britain, Norway and the United States.
Diplomats have warned any failure to sign a peace deal could trigger “serious consequences” for the rival leaders, but Lomuro said such threats were not helpful.
“We are not afraid of sanctions, this country belongs to us, the peace that we are talking belongs to us not to them,” Lomuro said.
Britain’s minister for Africa, Grant Shapps, warned on Friday of possible “targeted sanctions” and an arms embargo if no deal is made.