, ADDIS ABABA, Jan 12 – US and regional mediators in the South Sudan conflict met Saturday with Riek Machar, who heads the rebel forces that have been fighting government troops for the past month, the rebel delegation said.
“The American Special envoy to South Sudan and Sudan, Donald Booth together with (regional) mediators travelled to an undisclosed location in South Sudan to meet Dr. Riek Machar,” said a statement, received Sunday and signed by Machar’s former press officer Miyong G. Kuon.
The meeting with Machar comes as talks in the Ethiopian capital, aimed at reaching a ceasefire agreement, appear to be treading water. Regional mediators have been trying to incorporate the proposals of both sides into a draft ceasefire document.
Fighting erupted in South Sudan on December 15. President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of attempting a coup. Machar accused Kiir of using the coup accusation as an excuse to carry out a purge.
The biggest stumbling block in peace talks here still appears to be the issue of 11 Machar sympathisers who were arrested by forces loyal to Kiir shortly after the fighting began.
Machar’s side has insisted the 11 should be released to they can take part in the talks, while Kiir’s side is equally adamant they should face justice.