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.


Fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh goes on despite US mediation

Updated 24 October 2020

Fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh goes on despite US mediation

  • Nagorno-Karabakh lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a war there ended in 1994
  • After failed attempts by Russia to broker a truce, Pompeo hosted the Armenian and Azerbaijan foreign ministers for separate talks

STEPANAKERT, Nagorno-Karabakh: Rocket and artillery barrage hit residential areas in Nagorno-Karabakh on Saturday hours after the United States hosted top diplomats from Armenia and Azerbaijan for talks on settling their decades-long conflict over the region.
The heavy shelling forced residents of Stepanakert, the regional capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, into shelters, as emergency teams rushed to extinguish fires. Local officials said the city was struck with Azerbaijan’s Smerch long-range multiple rocket systems, a devastating Soviet-designed weapon intended to ravage wide areas with explosives and cluster munitions.
Nagorno-Karabakh authorities said other towns in the region were also targeted by Azerbaijani artillery fire. There was no immediate information about casualties.
Officials in Azerbaijan claimed that the town of Terter and areas in the Gubadli region came under Armenian shelling early Saturday, killing a teenager. They also said 13-year-old boy died Saturday of wounds from an earlier shelling of Ganja, Azerbaijan’s second-largest city.
Nagorno-Karabakh lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a war there ended in 1994. The current fighting that started Sept. 27 marks the worst escalation in the conflict since the war’s end and has killed hundreds, perhaps even thousands, according to official reports.
After two failed attempts by Russia to broker a truce, the US waded onto the scene on Friday, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hosting the Armenian and Azerbaijan foreign ministers for separate talks.
“Both must implement a cease-fire and return to substantive negotiations,” Pompeo said in a tweet after the negotiations.
Those words were ignored on the ground.
“Just now a bomb exploded in my garden,” Georgiy, a resident of Stepanakert who only gave his first name amid the war jitters, said after the overnight attack. “If this is the so-called cease-fire, let the whole world see this cease-fire.”
Georgiy, who was born in Stepanakert, said he would stay home despite the fighting.
“This is my motherland, I’m not going to leave it,” he said. “All the people will stand until the last.”
According to Nagorno-Karabakh officials, 963 of their troops have been killed, and 37 civilians also have died. Azerbaijan hasn’t disclosed its military losses, but said that over 60 civilians were killed and about 300 were wounded in the four weeks of fighting.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that according to Moscow’s information, the death toll from the fighting was significantly higher than officially reported by the warring parties, nearing 5,000.
Russia, the United States and France have co-chaired the so-called Minsk Group set up by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to mediate in the conflict, but they haven’t scored any progress after nearly three decades.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has said that to end hostilities Armenian forces must withdraw from Nagorno-Karabakh. He has insisted that Azerbaijan has the right to reclaim its territory by force since international mediators have failed.
Turkey has thrown its weight behind Azerbaijan, vowing to support its ally “on the battlefield or the negotiating table.” It has trained Azerbaijani military and provided it with strike drones and long-range rocket systems that gave Azerbaijan a strong military edge on the battlefield.
Armenian officials say Turkey is directly involved in the conflict and is sending Syrian mercenaries in to fight on Azerbaijan’s side.
Turkey has denied deploying combatants to the region, but a Syrian war monitor and Syria-based opposition activists have confirmed that Turkey has sent hundreds of Syrian opposition fighters to fight in Nagorno-Karabakh.