December 17, 2019 / 11:11 AM / 2 months ago

South Sudan's Kiir and Machar say they will form government

JUBA (Reuters) - South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and former rebel leader Riek Machar have agreed to form a transitional unity government even if they fail to resolve all their differences before a new deadline, the two leaders said on Tuesday.

Kiir and Machar signed a peace deal last year under pressure from the United Nations, United States and countries in the region to end a five-year civil war and agreed to form a unity government by Nov. 12.

But the two leaders pushed the deadline back by 100 days, prompting Washington to recall its ambassador and raising fears the civil war that created the worst refugee crisis in Africa since the Rwandan genocide might resume.

“We said that after 100 days we must form the government of national unity. If the arrangements are not complete, we shall form a transitional government of national unity to implement the outstanding issues,” Kiir told reporters after three days of talks with Machar in the capital Juba.

“The ceasefire will continue to hold and no one from us is willing to go back to war,” Kiir said at a joint news conference with the former rebel leader.

Both sides blame each other for not meeting milestones stipulated by the peace deal, especially the integration of different fighting forces. They also disagree on the number of states the country created in 2011 should have.

“We have talked about the number of states and boundaries but we didn’t reach a deal on the states,” Machar said.

The United States imposed sanctions on two senior South Sudanese officials on Monday for their role in perpetuating the conflict and said it was ready to impose other measures on anyone seeking to derail the peace process.

“Everyone knows what needs to be done. A comprehensive package includes arrangements for a solution of the states issue. No loose ends for people to hide behind. And we will measure our reactions accordingly,” the EU’s special representative for the Horn of Africa Alexander Rondos said.

Reporting by Denis Dumo in Juba; Additional reporting and writing by Giulia Paravicini in Addis Ababa; Editing by David Clarke

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