By Tesfa-Alem Tekle |

Addis Ababa – The Ethiopian peace committee for South Sudan on has held a consultative meeting with its South Sudanese counterpart in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

The two peace committees engaged in consultation on the best ways to engage the rival parties during the last round of talks, aimed at clinching a final peace deal to end the more than 14-month-long conflict.

The South Sudanese government and the country’s rebel faction led by former vice-president Riek Machar began phase three of the final session of peace negotiations in Addis Ababa on Monday. The talks are being mediated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

The stakeholders are expected to reach a comprehensive peace agreement before 5 March.

The South Sudanese government and pro-Machar rebels have been engaged in armed conflict since mid-December 2013 after a split in the country’s ruling party (SPLM) turned violent.

During the consultative meeting, chairman of the Ethiopian peace committee, Abune Tesfaselase Medhin, underscored the need to work at a grass roots level in order to address the current crisis and secure durable peace in the young nation.

Medhin said that although various efforts are underway to resolve the crisis at the highest political levels, a grass roots approach was vital to defusing the current conflict.

The peace committees, mainly comprising religious leaders, scholars and other well-known identities, have been engaged in promoting peace and reconciliation in South Sudan.

The two warring SPLM factions are also expected to reach an agreement on arrangements to establish a transitional government of national unity by 9 July.

At the opening session on Monday, IGAD’s chief negotiator, Seyoum Mesfin, said the latest round of talks is the final opportunity for the rival factions to restore peace to their country and end the suffering of hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese.

“After months of negotiations, you are all aware of what must be achieved now. Genuine compromise and dialogue must take place” Mesfin told the delegations of both parties.

“The agreed 5 March deadline must take place,” he added.

IGAD and the African Union have threatened to impose sanctions should the parties fail to strike a peace deal in the final round of negotiations.

The two warring factions have repeatedly traded accusations of violating the terms of a ceasefire agreements signed last January and recommitted to in May.

At the consultative meeting held today,

During the committees’ consultations IGAD peace and security director Tewolde Gebremeskel said the two sides were currently engaged in negotiations on power-sharing and security arrangements.

He urged the leaders of both parties to avoid further delays and demonstrate their full commitment to striking a final peace pact.

As well as establishing an interim government, security, justice and economic issues are also top of the agenda.

A separate committee tasked with dealing with issues of leadership and governance is also engaged with the parties.

Source: Sudan Tribune

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