Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir (R) salutes official as he is welcomed by South Sudan’s Vice-President James Wani Igga (L) upon his arrival at Juba’s airport on January 6, 2014 before meeting at the presidential palace. (CHARLES ATIKI LOMODONG/AFP/Getty Images)
Formal peace talks between South Sudan’s government and rebels are set to open Monday in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, delegates and diplomats said.
The talks, brokered by the East African regional bloc IGAD and aimed at ending three weeks of unrest in South Sudan, are set to start at 3:00pm (1200 GMT), Ethiopian government spokesman Getachew Reda said.
Delegates from both sides confirmed the schedule had been fixed after days of wrangling over protocol and other disagreements.
“I am optimistic. Our delegation is going in with an open mind,” rebel delegate Mabior Garang said.
However he added that the rebels were “suspicious of the sincerity of the government.”
“They keep shifting the goalposts and are adamant on not releasing detainees, but we should first get to the table and discuss a cessation of hostilities,” he added.
Government delegation spokesman Michael Makuei confirmed the planned start time but made no further comment.
A key sticking point has been rebel and international demands that the South Sudanese government release 11 officials close to rebel leader Riek Machar so they can participate in the talks, aimed at putting in place a truce as well as ceasefire-monitoring mechanisms.
The conflict in South Sudan erupted on December 15, pitting army units loyal to President Salva Kiir against a loose alliance of ethnic militia forces and mutinous army commanders nominally headed by Riek Machar, a former vice president who was sacked last July.
Copyright (2014) AFP.
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