The talks in neighboring Ethiopia will focus on brokering a
ceasefire to halt three weeks of violence that has killed at least
1,000 people and driven 200,000 from their homes.
"We have begun our meeting on the cessation of hostilities," a
member of the government delegation told Reuters. After opening, the
talks quickly took a break to allow consultations in Juba about the
release of detained rebels.
The fighting, often along ethnic faultlines, has pitted President
Salva Kiir's SPLA government forces against rebels loyal to former
vice president Riek Machar.
Tuesday was the first face-to-face session, after a formal opening
ceremony on Saturday, due to delays caused by haggling over the fate
of 11 detainees held by the government in Juba. The rebels initially
insisted on securing their release before negotiations started.
A diplomat said the Intergovernmental Authority on Development
(IGAD), a regional grouping of east African nations that initiated
the talks, had sent its envoys to Juba to press Kiir to free the
The trio of envoys is led by Seyoum Mesfin, a former Ethiopian
foreign minister, the diplomat said. "They will push for the
detainees' release," said the diplomat, close to the talks.
"The talks are going on but we are here for consultations," Kenyan
Lieutenant-General Lazarus Sumbeiywo, one of the three IGAD envoys,
told Reuters on arrival in Juba.
The talks in Addis paused to await the return of the IGAD envoys,
expected later on Tuesday, officials said.
China, the biggest investor in South Sudan's oil industry through
state-owned Chinese oil giants National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) and
Sinopec, called on Monday for an immediate ceasefire. Beijing is
concerned by the unrest that had forced the government to cut oil
production by about a fifth.
The fighting forced CNPC to evacuate workers.
[to top of second column]
Sudan, which also has an economic interest in its southern
neighbor's oil output, said the Juba government discussed the
deployment of a joint force to secure its oilfields during a visit
by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on Monday.
The prospect of security cooperation between the two countries would
represent an improvement in ties, after the civil war foes came
close to conflict again in disputes over oil fees and the border in
the early part of 2012.
All of landlocked South Sudan's oil is piped through its northern
neighbor, providing vital hard currency in transit fees for
South Sudan's oil production fell by 45,000 barrels per day to
200,000 bpd after oilfields in its northern Unity state were shut
down due to fighting. Upper Nile state is still pumping about
200,000 bpd, the government says.
Oil major BP estimates that South Sudan holds sub-Saharan Africa's
(Additional reporting by Carl Odera in Juba;
writing by Duncan Miriri and James Macharia; editing by Alister Doyle)
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