Machar and Kiir in better days. Room for only one hat in South Sudan?
For the second day in a row during a daily news briefing the U.S. again called on South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir to release political allies of former Vice President Riek Machar to advance the ongoing peace talks in Ethiopia.
“We believe that they need to be present at the IGAD talks for discussions on political issues in order for them to be productive. So we believe they should be released immediately,” Jen Psaki, top spokesperson at the U.S. Department of State said, in response to a reporter’s question in Washington, D.C. today.
“Special Envoy Booth remains in Addis Ababa supporting the IGAD-led talks,” she added, when asked to provide an update. “Negotiating teams from both sides remain in Ethiopia. IGAD mediators were in Juba today to meet with President Kiir and visit political detainees. IGAD has presented the parties with a draft proposal on a cessation of hostilities and on the release on political detainees. The discussions have made progress on a proposed cessation of hostilities. Disagreements remain on the issue of the release of political detainees. Obviously, the discussions are continuing, but that’s where things stand at this moment.”
Her reference was to Donald Booth, President Obama’s top envoy who is attending the peace talks in Addis Ababa and reporting to Washington on a daily basis. Obama was briefed daily on the South Sudan crisis during his vacation in Hawaii. The White House has already warned that those responsible for atrocities in the power-struggle that erupted December 15 between Kiir and Machar, will be held accountable.
“I don’t have any prediction of a timeframe at this point,” Psaki said, when asked when the draft cessation of hostilities document could be signed by the two sides.