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Juba only pledged to consider holding Kiir-Riek meeting in Khartoum: diplomat

Riek Machar, left, and President Salva Kiir after the first meeting of a new transitional coalition government, in Juba, South Sudan, April 29, 2016. (Photo AP)
June 17, 2018 (JUBA) - President Salva Kiir has only pledged to consider the Sudanese proposal to hold in Khartoum the face-to-face meeting between him and his main rival Riek Machar, diplomatic sources said on Sunday.

South Sudanese Government Spokesperson came out on Friday say they do not want this crucial meeting for the peace process to be held in one of the IGAD countries because there are "competing interests" and indicated they prefer a neutral country such as South Africa.

At the same time, Sudanese foreign minister ended a meeting with the Ethiopian Prime Minister and was heading to Mombasa to meet the Kenyan President before to meet the Ugandan leader on Saturday evening.

Asked to explain the situation South Sudanese diplomat indicated that in fact President Kiir when he was briefed about the Sudanese initiative welcomed the idea and pledged to mull over the proposal.

"We told Sudan(’s foreign minister) that we would think about the offer. They rushed to announce something we didn’t agree in the media," said the diplomat who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth pointed to the multiple initiatives by Sudan, Kenya and Ethiopia to host a meeting between Kiir and Machar saying there are between the IGAD countries.

The diplomat went further to stress that "our government prefers South Africa" because Ethiopia, Sudan and Kenya all want the meeting to take place in their capitals.

Observers in Juba say Khartoum want to play the card of mediators because they first want the resumption of oil production in South Sudan and increase their dividends besides using it in their talks with Washington for Sudan removal from the terror list.

For Kenya, they say it is a manner to improve its relations with Juba which is infuriated by the opposition presence and to reconcile with Machar because he didn’t forget the handover of his close aid James Dak to Juba in 2016.

In a statement released on 13 June, the SPLM-IO welcomed the invitation extended by the Ethiopian government and said it is only committed to the Addis Ababa meeting on 20 June.

"The Movement welcomes this invitation and salutes the courage of IGAD for reaching this prudent and timely decision, it will go a long way in building confidence in the peace process," said the statement.

Khartoum did not propose a date for the meeting even if Sudanese sources last week spoke about Sunday 17 June as a date for the meeting. It is reported that Khartoum encounter should be a preparatory meeting for Addis Ababa reunion.

Now Juba has declined Addis Ababa, Khartoum and Nairobi as a venue for the talks, they have to convince the IGAD which mediates the process of their position.

The IGAD Council of Ministers in a meeting held on 31 May discussed the failure of the parties to sign the Bridging Proposal document on the governance and security arrangements and decided to convene a meeting between Kiir and Machar before the end of June.

The idea that if they accept the proposed document they will be the driving force for the implementation of 2015 peace agreement and create a new dynamic to end the four-and-half-year conflict in South Sudan.

Regarding Addis Ababa, the South Sudanese observers say Ethiopia which put aside the former team of mediators from Kenya and Sudan, now is controlling alone the whole process and do not want the others to come to take advantage of its efforts.

However, sources close the SPLM-IO told Sudan Tribune that President Kiir has been opposed to Machar return to the region and still has the same position, adding this why he offers travelling to Pretoria and meet him there instead of holding the meeting in one of the IGAD countries.

(ST)