South Sudan rivals meet as deadline looms for unity government

In this Thursday, June 21, 2018 file photo, South Sudan's President Salva Kiir, left, and opposition leader Riek Machar shake hands during peace talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (AP)
Updated 07 November 2019

South Sudan rivals meet as deadline looms for unity government

  • Both sides agreed to a November 12 deadline to join forces in a unity government
  • The United States in particular has warned it would reevaluate its relationship with South Sudan if a unity government isn't forged on November 12

JUBA: South Sudan President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar will hold rare face-to-face talks Thursday in Uganda, their representatives said, as time runs out for the rivals to form a power-sharing government.
Both sides agreed to a November 12 deadline to join forces in a unity government, but unresolved differences over the terms of peace threatens to scuttle the deal and plunge the country back into war, observers have warned.
Representatives for Kiir and Machar, foes who have only met a handful of times since inking a September 2018 truce that paused five years of conflict, said the Kampala meeting would seek to broker a way forward.
Kiir and Machar have arrived at the State House in the city of Entebbe, according to a Ugandan official and an AFP correspondent at the scene.
"They are expected to discuss the unresolved issues as well, and Riek Machar will be having a meeting with President Salva Kiir," the president's spokesperson, Ateny Wek Ateny, told AFP on Thursday.
Machar's party, the SPLM-IO, said in a statement the meeting would seek progress on issues that have dragged on "without much having been achieved" since the deal was signed more than a year ago.
Machar, who lives in exile in Khartoum, has asked for more time so that the impasse, primarily over security and territory arrangements in South Sudan, can be overcome.
The rebel leader warned that if these were not addressed, the country would see a repeat of fighting in 2016, when an earlier peace deal collapsed, worsening the conflict.

Machar, a former deputy to Kiir, was forced then to flee South Sudan on foot under a hail of gunfire, and has only returned home on rare occasions.
Kiir says he's ready to form a new government, and has threatened to do it alone.
But the creation of the coalition government has already been delayed once, in May, and parts of the international community fear another extension risks the already fragile peace accord.
The United States in particular has warned it would reevaluate its relationship with South Sudan if a unity government isn't forged on November 12, and has floated sanctions.
The peace deal has largely stopped the fighting that erupted in 2013, just two years after South Sudan achieved independence, after a falling out between Kiir and Machar.
The International Crisis Group warned pushing the November 12 deadline at all costs risked this fragile truce.
"External actors could imperil these gains if they push the parties into a unity government that then falls apart or permit Kiir to exclude Machar," the think tank wrote in a report this week.
Fighting in South Sudan has left nearly 400,000 dead and displaced nearly four million people.


NATO says Greece and Turkey cancel military exercises

Updated 23 October 2020

NATO says Greece and Turkey cancel military exercises

  • “This is a very welcome step,” Stoltenberg said after a videoconference of NATO defense ministers
  • Turkey has deployed a gas exploration vessel under military escort into Greek waters

BRUSSELS: Turkey and Greece have agreed to cancel rival military exercises that were to have been held next week on their respective national days, NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday.
The neighbors, while NATO members, are at loggerheads over energy drilling and maritime rights in the eastern Mediterranean and the alliance has set up a hotline to head off accidental clashes.
“This is a very welcome step,” Stoltenberg said after a videoconference of NATO defense ministers, including Greece’s Nikos Panagiotopoulos and Turkey’s Hulusi Akar.
“These are steps in the right direction, and it helps to reduce the risks for instance and accidents.”
Greece had been expected to conduct exercises on Wednesday October 28, its Oxi Day holiday, and Turkey on Thursday, celebrated there as Republic Day.
Turkey has deployed the Oruc Reis, a gas exploration vessel under military escort into Greek waters off the island of Kastellorizo, and Greek vessels are nearby.
Addressing a news conference after two days of talks on a variety of topics, Stoltenberg confirmed he had raised the situation with the Greek and Turkish ministers.
“I will say that we had a good and constructive talks and allies expressed a strong support for the NATO de-confliction mechanism,” Stoltenberg said.
“I welcome now the fact that we have been able to see some concrete steps in that direction with the cancelation of the two exercises.”
French Defense Minister Florence Parly also hailed the decisions to cancel the military exercises, stressing the need to “respect international law and restore stability in the region.”
Stoltenberg also welcomed Germany’s diplomatic mediation in the underlying dispute.
On Thursday, he had warned that — while NATO could help keep the rival militaries apart — it would be down to Ankara and Athens to open a dialogue to resolve their long-standing differences.