, BRUSSELS, Jan 24 – The European Union on Thursday welcomed a peace deal between South Sudan’s government and rebels and urged immediate implementatiom in a conflict that has left thousands dead.
“The killing must end now,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement.
The deal, signed earlier Thursday, committed both sides to halt fighting within 24 hours.
“I welcome the agreement on the cessation of hostilities in South Sudan,” Ashton said in a statement. “This agreement must now be turned to reality and the parties must move immediately to implement in good faith.
“This means that the killing must end now. Women must be safe again. Children must be protected. The displaced must be able to return home. Humanitarian assistance must reach all in need without obstacle or abuse.”
The agreement was signed in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa by representatives of South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and rebel delegates loyal to ousted vice president Riek Machar.
Mediators from the East African regional bloc IGAD, which has been brokering the peace talks, said the deal will put in place a verification and monitoring mechanism for the truce.
After clashes broke out in the capital Juba more than a month ago, the conflict rapidly escalated into all-out war between the regular army, backed by Ugandan troops, and breakaway army units and other militia.
The violence took on an ethnic dimension as members of Kiir’s Dinka tribe clashed with Machar’s Nuer group.
Aid workers and analysts believe up to 10,000 people have died, while close to half a million have been forced to flee their homes, with atrocities allegedly committed by both sides.