By Taddeo Bwambale
Negotiations to end fighting in South Sudan will focus on cessation of hostilities and the release of detainees, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has revealed.
The IGAD Executive Secretary, Ambassador Mahboub Maalim, in a statement on Saturday said the two areas were key on the agenda as delegations of President Salva Kiir and his rival, Dr. Riek Machar met for talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Friday and Saturday.
According to Mahboub, the two-days of extensive ‘proxy talks’ were for parties to understand the key issues and agree on agenda items and modalities for negotiations.
Earlier reports had indicated that formal negotiations that kicked off on Saturday had hit a snag as fighting erupted in South Sudan.
But Ambassador Mahboub said there had been ‘positive engagement’ by the negotiating teams of both parties during proxy talks.
The Chair of IGAD Council of Ministers and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Dr. Tedros Adhanom and IGAD Special Envoy Ambassador Seyoum Mesfin are among the observers at the talks.
Mahboub described the start of the talks as ‘a significant step in pursuit of a peaceful resolution of the crisis.’
He commended the commitment by both parties to a speedy and peaceful resolution of the crisis demonstrated in the proxy talks.
The talks are in line with the call for an end to the fighting made by the 23rd IGAD Summit of Heads of state and Government on 27 December 2013 in Nairobi, Kenya.
The unrest in South Sudan has claimed over 1,500 lives, displaced thousands of civilians and led to the evacuation of thousands of foreign nationals.
Mahboub pledged IGADʼs support towards a peaceful solution to the crisis and appealed to the International Community to take part in stabilizing the world’s youngest country.
Established to foster drought control and development, IGAD brings together six countries of the Horn of Africa region which are Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda.