By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
January 17, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – The Ethiopian government is calling on the international community to encourage warring factions in South Sudan to sign a ceasefire agreement to end over a month of fighting that has killed over 1,000 people.
The calls come as ongoing ceasefire talks between South Sudan government and rebels in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa continue without a truce being reached, while the rebels stick to their demands that eleven detainees in Juba be released.
South Sudan’s government has refused to release the detainees, despite their detention contravening the young country’s constitution.
Those detained have told East African mediators from the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) that their status should not impeded any deal between the army, which is loyal to President Salva Kiir and soldiers who have defected and are under the command of former Vice President Riek Machar.
Ethiopia’s deputy foreign affairs minister, Berhane Gebrekirstos, underscored a need for the international community to unequivocally encourage the two political rivals to settle their differences and quickly reach an agreement.
While holding talks with Egon Kochanke, Regional Director for Sub-Saharan Africa and the Sahel at Germany’s Foreign Affairs, the Ethiopian official said although no deal is signed so far the ongoing talks have largely been positive.
Following the discussions, Kochanke said "Germany believes an African solution to the problems in South Sudan would be far better than any external one."
He added his country, as well as the European Union (EU), is ready for any contributions that would hasten the South Sudanese peace process.
The ongoing talks between Kiir and Machar’s delegations have remain hinged over the release of the 11 political figures from the ruling party who were detained soon after the conflict began on December 15.
Kiir accuses Machar and his supporters of attempting to stage a coup. Despite now leading a rebellion about the government, Machar - as well as his supporters and those detained - deny this. They claiming Kiir used infighting within the army to silence the growing criticism of his leadership.
Regional mediators led by Ethiopia’s former foreign minister, Seyoum Mesfin, are in Juba to further press both sides to agree to an immediate ceasefire.
The fighting in the world’s youngest nation has forced over 500,000 flee their homes, according to the United Nations. The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) says that the number of dead is "substantially in excess" of the 1,000 figure that has been reported for the last few weeks.
An International Crisis Group analyst has estimated that "Given the intensity of fighting in over 30 different locations in the past three weeks" the death toll could be "approaching 10,000".
Mediators in Addis Ababa are hoping the two sides will sign a peace deal before Monday after the mediating team returns from Juba.
Some observers are positive that the regional mediators will this time persuade Kiir and Machar to unconditionally accept peace agreement.
Ethiopia’s foreign affairs ministry spokesperson, Dina Mufti, on Friday said regional mediators are exerting every effort to bring the two sides strike a cessation of hostilities agreement.
He further went on to saying that if the two parties fail to sign a ceasefire agreement; IGAD will continue mediating between the two sides until their differences are settled.