, ADDIS ABABA, June 19- Religious leaders from South Sudan on Thursday accused warring factions of stalling peace talks to prolong fighting as the government and rebels continued to boycott negotiations.
Both the government of President Salva Kiir and rebels loyal to former vice president Riek Machar are refusing to restart talks aimed at ending six months of bloodshed, which has already killed thousands and displaced 1.3 million people.
The government says it objects to comments made by Mahboub Maalim, the executive secretary of the East African bloc brokering the talks, IGAD, who said the idea that a military solution to the conflict could be pursued was “stupid”.
Rebels, meanwhile, have objected to the participation in the talks of civil society groups, religious organisations and other political parties, complaining that they were not involved in the selection process.
“We fear that the warring parties may want to resort to war, it’s kind of a delaying tactic,” South Sudanese Bishop Enoch Tombe Stephen told reporters in the Ethiopian capital, where the talks are supposed to be held.
“They may be tempted to go back to the battlefield and fight it out. We do not agree with that position, rather we encourage them to return to the negotiation table,” he added.
Bishop Isaiah Majok Dau, another South Sudanese religious leader, said neither side “is serious about these talks”.
“This boycott is not helpful because people continue to die on the ground,” Day said.
Peace talks in the Ethiopian capital have so far cost over $17 million (12 million euros) but have failed to stop the war, with ceasefire agreements repeatedly violated.
Kiir and Machar met this month and agreed to form a transitional government in 60 days, but that deadline looks unlikely to be met.
Mediators have meanwhile threatened both sides face sanctions if the deadline is missed.
The fighting, which erupted in December, has been marked by widespread atrocities and, according to aid agencies, has pushed the world’s youngest nation to the brink of famine.