NAIROBI, Kenya, May 3 – South Sudan President Salva Kiir on Friday evening reaffirmed his willingness to holding face to face talks with rebel leader Riek Machar in an effort to end hostilities in the war-torn nation.
He told Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and President Uhuru Kenyatta, who has been spearheading the peace efforts, that despite his differences with Machar, he was ready for peace to return to the two-year-old nation.
“In the interest of peace in our country, I am willing and ready for face-to-face talks with Machar,” he said.
And according to a communiqué from the Presidential Strategic Communications Unit (PSCU), he agreed to meet Machar, “at any time and venue.”
The PSCU communiqué continued to state that Kiir also briefed the two Heads of State on an earlier meeting he held with US Secretary of State John Kerry at which he agreed to the face to face talks.
According to a press statement from Kerry, Kiir agreed to hold talks with Machar in the Ethiopian capital and African Union headquarters of Addis Ababa in the near term.
“I just spoke a few minutes ago to Prime Minister Hailemariam of Ethiopia to convey to him President Kiir’s willingness to travel to Addis Ababa in the near term, sometime early next week hopefully, in order to engage in a discussion with Prime Minister Hailemariam, and hopefully with Riek Machar, who had previously indicated to the prime minister a willingness to do so. And I hope to talk to him sometime later in the course of today to encourage him to do so,” he stated on Friday.
Adding that the talks were aimed at a ceasefire and the setting up of a transitional government:
“This meeting of Riek Machar and President Kiir is critical to the ability to be able to really engage in a serious way as to how the cessation of hostilities agreement will now once and for all really be implemented, and how that can be augmented by the discussions regarding a transition government,” he continued to state.
Representatives of Kiir and Machar had signed a cessation of hostilities agreement on January 23 in what was though to be a major coup for the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) mediation efforts of which President Kenyatta is rapporteur.
Fighting on the ground however continued despite the agreement which has led the US to put the wheels of sanctions into motion at the United Nations (UN) Security Council level.
“Salva Kiir has said he will meet directly with former vice president Machar. We heard many promises from South Sudanese leaders before without follow-up… We hope for the sake of the people of South Sudan that this time it is different,” Samantha Powers, the US Ambassador to the UN, told the Council.
Thousands have been reported dead and millions displaced since the hostilities in South Sudan began on December 15, 2013 after Kiir accused his former Vice-President Machar of attempting a coup.