By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
January 14, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – The leaders of Japan and Ethiopia have urged South Sudan’s conflicting parties to withdraw all preconditions seen as obstacles to the ongoing peace process in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
- South Sudanese rebel delegation chief Taban Deng (left) and members of his delegation attend talks in Addis Ababa on January 4, 2014 to try and broker a ceasefire (AFP/Solan Gemechu)
The calls were made after visiting Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday met and held talks with his Ethiopian counterpart, Hailemariam Desalegn in Addis Ababa.
The two leaders, according to a statement extended to Sudan Tribune, underscored the need for the two warring parties to immediately sign a ceasefire deal to end a month-old fighting that has killed over 1,000 people and displaced more than 200,000.
"We agreed that the cessation of hostilities in South Sudan and national reconciliation is the most important way forward," said the Ethiopian premier, also chairperson of the African Union (AU).
The Japanese Prime Minister on his part said his country backs the mediation efforts by the regional bloc, IGAD to end political crises in South Sudan.
Abe affirmed that Tokyo would jointly work with Addis Ababa to facilitate South Sudan’s peace process.
"I have confirmed with Hailemariam that Japan and Ethiopia will maintain close contact and exchange information for stability for the situation in South Sudan," Abe said further calling on the international community to support the IGAD-led mediation efforts in South Sudan and other peace making initiatives across the region.
The Japanese leader also commended Ethiopia’s role to peace and stability in the volatile East African role particularly in Somalia, Sudan, between the two Sudans and now to the crises in South Sudan.
Following the talks, Abe announced grants of $11.6 million to assist tens of thousands of refugees from neighboring countries who are being sheltered in Ethiopia.
An additional $ 500,000 was also granted to the Ethiopia-based African Union Peace and Security Peacekeeping Training center.
He further said Japan was prepared to provide humanitarian aid to South Sudan.
SOUTH SUDAN PEACE TALKS
Meanwhile, face-to face-talks between South Sudan and rebel delegations continued on Tuesday in the Ethiopian capital with hopes of reaching a deal soon. Direct talks continued over a draft proposal on cessation of hostilities presented by mediators.
No progress is yet announced here from the venue of the talks as the two warring parties hinge over the issue of freeing political prisoners.
However regional mediators today said there is some progress and a ceasefire agreement between the two factions is likely soon.
Mediators decline to give details of the progress particularly on the sensitive issue of political prisoners.
DETAINEES NOT POLITICAL
In other development, the South Sudanese government on Tuesday said the jailed pro-rebel political figures are “no longer political prisoners”.
South Sudan president spokesperson, Ateny Wek Ateny said the 11 alleged associates of rebel leader, Riek Machar, who remain held in accusation of involvement in last month’s failed coup attempt, are only suspects.
“They are no longer called political detainees. They are suspected of the coup attempt," Ateny said, adding that there was no any chance they would be freed.
“They are suspects of the attempted coup and they are still being investigated and they will face court of law,” he stressed.
As hopes of reaching a quick ceasefire faced challenges in neighboring Ethiopia, fighting continued on Tuesday in South Sudan’s Upper Nile and parts of Jonglei states as government forces battled rebels loyal to Machar.