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South Sudan’s Kiir-Machar talks to continue in Khartoum

South Sudan's Kiir and SPLM-Io leader Riek Machar shake hands during the meeting of IGAD head of states and governments on 21 June 2018 (Photo Louis Jadong)

June 21, 2018 (ADDIS ABABA/KHARTOUM) - President Salva Kiir and his main opponent Riek Machar will meet next week in Khartoum to continue their discussions over peace in South Sudan, announced the Sudanese foreign ministry late on Thursday evening.

The IGAD head of states and governments meeting "decided to start direct talks between the leaders of South Sudan in Khartoum on June 25, under the auspices of President Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir," said the statement.

Sudan had made the proposition for Kiir and Machar meeting during a meeting of the IGAD Council of Ministers last May and sought to convince the IGAD leaders to hold the face-to-face-meeting in Khartoum.

However, Juba resisted the proposal and Kenya through the former Prime Minister Raila proposed to coordinate the meeting, triggering an invitation by the IGAD Chairperson and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed for a meeting in Addis Ababa on 20 June.

However, the failure of the meeting which required more preparations coupled with the IGAD determination to keep pressures on the parties to end the conflict pushed to decided Khartoum meeting.

"The crisis in South Sudan has grown to become a crisis in each of our respective countries in the region. Our vital national security interests are at stake. Business, as usual, is over. We need to act and act now," said Abiy at the summit of the IGAD leaders on Thursday evening.

"Arrangements are underway to transfer IGAD’s technical negotiating staff to Khartoum to provide the needed support to President Bashir and the team of Sudanese mediators;" said the spokesperson of the Sudanese foreign ministry.

During the face-to-face meeting, Machar criticized the IGAD handling of the talks by the IGAD negotiating team which used to hold workshops for the parties to give their positions and then come out with proposals on the conflicting issues.

For his part, President Kiir preferred to be frank with Machar that he does not want to work with him personally as long as he is the president and advised him to appoint another person to represent the SPLM-Io in the transitional government.

For a successful follow-up, al-Bashir has to persuade Kiir to work with Machar during the transitional period to implement the needed reforms and to bring Machar to further cooperate with Machar.

"The issue will be more about reconciliation between the two leaders than bringing new amendments to the Bridging Proposal," told Sudan Tribune an IGAD diplomat in Addis Ababa.

"There is no shortage of ideas on how to resolve the crisis. What we lack is the courage to translate those commitments to peace a reality. What we lack is leadership," said Abiy after backing to endorse the Final Bridging Proposal.