South Sudan ready for peace talks with rebel leader Machar: spokesman
JUBA, June 4 (Xinhua) -- South Sudanese President Salva Kiir is ready for peace talks with his longtime political rival and rebel leader Riek Machar, a presidential spokesman said on Monday.
Kiir's spokesman, Ateny Wek Ateny, told Xinhua by phone that the South Sudanese leader has accepted the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) proposal for face-to-face talks with the former first deputy president.
"President Kiir has agreed to meet Machar as proposed by the IGAD Council of Ministers because he is committed to peace. I can not speculate what they are going to discuss in the meeting now," Ateny said.
Last week, the East African regional bloc, IGAD, which is mediating efforts to revive South Sudan's stalled 2015 peace deal, recommended President Kiir meet Machar before the next African Union (AU) summit slated for July in Mauritania.
The meeting was called for after the several warring parties in South Sudan last month failed to agree during the second round of the High Level Revitalization Forum held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
"The president is ready to meet with Machar anytime, anywhere," Ateny added. He said the president is only waiting from IGAD the venue to be named.
This comes after the regional ministers set June 30 as the deadline for face-to-face talks between Kiir and the exiled rebel leader to resolve the conflict.
If it takes place, the face-to-face talks will be the first meeting between the warring South Sudanese leaders since Machar fled Juba in July 2016 following renewed violence. Machar is reportedly under house arrest in South Africa.
South Sudan descended into civil war in late 20013, and the conflict has created one of the fastest growing refugee crises in the world. The UN estimates that about 4 million South Sudanese have been displaced internally and externally.
A peace deal signed in August 2015 between the rival leaders under UN pressures led to the establishment of a transitional unity government, but was shattered by renewed fighting in July 2016.