US Says Sudan Effort 'Not Negative' on South

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Washington, Jan 11 - The United States on Thursday called for "immediate cessation of hostilities" between South Sudan’s warring parties to end nearly a month of violence that has engulfed the country.

In a statement, the White House’s national security advisor, Susan Rice, said both rebel-leader Riek Machar and South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, have “the obligation […] to ensure that the lives of their people and future of their young country [are] not marred by violence.”

"Mr Machar, in particular, must commit to a cessation of hostilities without precondition", Rice stressed.

Violent clashes erupted in the South Sudan capital, Juba in mid-December and later spread to parts of Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states between the army and rebels loyal to Machar.

The escalation of the conflict prompted regional leaders from the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to initiate direct talks between the two warring parties.

The rebels had, initially, demanded the immediate release of the nine politicians detained by government in Juba in connection with the violence as a precondition for talks to progress.

"His [Machar] continued insistence on the release of detainees as a pre-condition for cessation of hostilities is unacceptable and runs counter to the express will of the detainees who informed the IGAD mediators that their status should not impede reaching an agreement on cessation of hostilities", partly reads Rice’s statement extended to Sudan Tribune.

She, however, added that peace talks should continue, although the U.S "is disappointed that the detainees are still being held by government".

The United States, meanwhile, offered a rare upbeat assessment Tuesday of Sudan's President Omar Al Bashir, saying the Sudanese leader has not played a "negative role" in efforts to end South Sudan's violence.

"We have no indication that Sudan is playing a negative role in the current political crisis" in South Sudan, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

President Barack Obama's administration took tentative steps to repair relations with Sudan in 2011, welcoming Al Bashir's recognition of the new state of South Sudan which broke away following decades of fighting against Khartoum's government.

The United States has been rushing to end the violence in South Sudan, whose independence was seen as a key US diplomatic success in Africa.
Secretary of State John Kerry, in his latest telephone call to South Sudan's President Salva Kiir, urged him to release all political detainees "immediately."

Kerry and Kiir "discussed the urgent need for both sides to immediately halt fighting on the ground and protect civilians even as talks continue," Psaki said.

The fighting in the impoverished country has pit Kiir against forces loyal to his rival Riek Machar, a former vice president. (ST/ AFP)
 

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