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South Sudan’s Kiir, Ethiopia’s Abiy hold talks on peace and UN sanctions

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (R) and President Salva Kiir shake hands in Addis Ababa on 30 May 2018 (Photo ENA)
May 30, 2018 (JUBA/ADDIS ABABA) - South Sudan President Salva Kiir Wednesday was in Addis Ababa to discuss the IGAD brokered peace forum on the implementation of 2015 peace agreement but also the looming UN sanctions on his senior ministers.

The visit comes 24 hours before an extraordinary meeting on the stalled peace forum of the IGAD Council of Ministers chaired by Ethiopia. Also, on Thursday the UN Security Council will deliberate and vote on individual sanctions targeting his top ministers.

Following a meeting with the visiting South Sudanese president, the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed expressed the support of his country to the peace forum adding that Addis Abba would continue to work hard for peace and stability in the neighbouring troubled South Sudan.

"We cannot have peace (in Ethiopia) unless there is peace in neighbouring countries," said Abiy, adding that “Ethiopia will work in cooperation with neighbouring countries to achieve development and growth plans".

President Kiir said on his part "Ethiopia is not only a supportive neighbour but our country," reported the official ENA news agency.

Last week, the peace forum suspended its meetings after the failure of the South Sudanese parties to back a draft agreement elaborated by the mediation reinstating the former First Vice President Riek Machar in his position but maintained a controversial regional administration reform establishing 32 states.

During the past months, President Kiir had sought to convince the IGAD leaders and South African to keep Machar far from the peace talks or his return to Juba as first vice-president.

It is not clear if Kiir came to insist on his position on Machar and to request the IGAD Council of Ministers to take it into consideration.

The agenda of the IGAD ministerial meeting, seen by Sudan Tribune, shows that the meeting would discuss two reports on the progress made in the peace process and the ceasefire violations.

The meeting further will discuss the "consideration of the punitive measures that should be taken against violators of CoHA," reads the agenda.

The spokesperson of the South Sudanese presidency Ateny Wek Ateny told reporters at Juba Airport upon Kiir departure that the President would discuss the UN Security Council sanctions on three senior ministers and a military commander.

During an informal meeting of the Security Council on 25 May, Ethiopia which is a non-permanent member at the Security Council contested the draft resolution submitted by the U.S., the penholder on South Sudan, saying the draft had to presented by the IGAD countries.

Juba seeks to convince Russia and China to use their veto against the resolution. But if they abstain, the abstention of three African Unions countries at the Security Council, Ethiopia, Cote d’Ivoire and Equatorial Guinéa, plus two countries like Kuwait or Kazakhstan can prevent the adoption of the resolution which needs get the vote of 9 members out of the 15 total members.

During the informal meeting of last Thursday, Cote d’Ivoire and Equatorial Guinéa said they would vote for the resolution. Ethiopia said it would abstain, the
same for Russia and China.

Juba says the sanctions resolution if passed would embolden the opposition groups and push them to resist regional pressures to make the needed concessions.

However, opposition officials retort by pointing to Juba intransigence in the talks and the repeated violations by its army of the cessation of hostilities agreement.

The draft resolution includes Defence Minister Kuol Manyang Juuk, Malek Reuben Riak Rengu, Deputy Chief of Defence for Logistics in South Sudan’s army, Minister of Cabinet Affairs Martin Elia Lomuro, and Minister of Information Michael Makuei Lueth.