AFRICANGLOBE – South Sudan admitted on Sunday that the United States had demanded it immediately halt a military offensive against foreign backed rebel groups and accelerate talks to end the ongoing conflict.
Foreign affairs minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said president Salva Kiir received a telephone call from the US secretary of state John Kerry, who expressed grave concern about ongoing conflict in the country, with calls for both parties to fully respect the cessation of hostilities agreement signed on 23 January.
“Secretary Kerry called the president to welcome the decision of the government to release the four former detainees. He also recognised and appreciated the efforts of the government to end the conflict through peaceful dialogue and asked the both the parties to discourage military offensives and to adhere to the Cessation of Hostilities agreement,” Benjamin told reporters on Sunday.
The minister said both Kerry and Kiir expressed their support for the IGAD-led peace process, as well as the important role played by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and denounced recent attacks on their bases and personnel.
US state department spokesperson Jen Psaki said Kerry had spoken with Kiir, expressing grave concern about the ongoing conflict in the new nation, including recent violence in Bentiu and Bor, as well as the “deliberate” targeting of civilians by armed rebel groups.
“Secretary Kerry welcomed the Government of South Sudan’s decision to release the four senior political officials who had been in detention since December,” Psaki said in a statement issued on Saturday.
“He urged president Kiir to stop military offensives and to adhere to the cessation of hostilities agreement, and noted US demands that anti-government forces do the same,” it added.
Kerry has also urged Kiir to ensure full and unfettered access throughout South Sudan for UNMISS, the African Union Commission of Inquiry and the IGAD Monitoring and Verification Mechanism, tasked with overseeing ceasefire arrangements.
The UN said said last month that South Sudanese authorities had restricted its movements, contrary to the status of forces agreement (SOFA) signed by both parties.
In an earlier statement, the world body said it had become difficult to implement its mandate and that a dangerous working environment existed for its staff in the country.