S. Sudan negotiators back, blame mediators for failed Ethiopia talks

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

The South Sudan government's negotiating team returned on Tuesday from Addis Ababa, blaming the failure of the second round of talks with the rebels on the mediators.

The South Sudan government's negotiating team returned on Tuesday from Addis Ababa, blaming the failure of the second round of talks with the rebels on the mediators.

JUBA - The South Sudan government's negotiating team returned on Tuesday from Addis Ababa, blaming the failure of the second round of talks with the rebels on the mediators.

"We are back to South Sudan after a long pursuit of peace for our people," Information Minister Michael Makuei, the chief negotiator, told reporters at Juba international airport on arrival.

"When we went from here on the 9th of February [and] up to now we did not agree on anything," he said. "We did not even agree on the agenda."

"We did not agree on any other issue to do with the operationalization of hostilities. So, I can say in short that this phase did not achieve the objective," Makuei admitted.

South Sudan has been shaken by violence since mid-December, when President Salva Kiir accused sacked vice-president Riek Machar of standing behind a failed coup attempt against his regime.

The conflict has already claimed more than 10,000 lives, while the UN estimates that some 3.7 million people in South Sudan are now "severely food insecure" and more than 820,000 have been displaced.

Following a month-long first round of talks in Addis Ababa ”“ sponsored by the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) - the warring rivals signed a cessation of hostilities agreement in January.

A second round of talks kicked off last month in the Ethiopian capital. The two sides, however, were not engaged in direct talks.

-Bad Mediators-

Minister Makuei, however, blamed the failure of the second round of talks on the IGAD mediators.

"This [failure] has nothing to do with the parties but the envoys who became an obstacle," he told reporters.

"The mediators decided to come up with their own agenda, which was not acceptable for us as a government," Makuei recalled.

"Instead, we asked that the rebels give us the agenda but they were not given the opportunity. So we disagreed," he added.

The information minister also heaped blame on the mediators for the inclusion of politicians who had been accused by Juba of involvement in the "coup" before being released into the custody of Kenyan authorities.

"We were supposed to agree and sign what we call declaration principles," Makuei recalled.

"Unfortunately the envoys brought in, again, a third party whom they call the SPLM leaders - you know the people who were charged over the mutiny and were later released on bail and handed over to the president of Kenya," he added.

"We refused and demanded from the envoys that these people should not be included. Instead, the envoys insisted and said we were crossing a red line," said the minister.

"We said if that is a red line, you can continue and sign with the rebels," he asserted.

IGAD negotiators were not immediately available to comment on the accusations.

In a late Monday statement, IGAD said South Sudanese rivals would resume direct peace talks in Addis Ababa on March 20.

By Okech Francis

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