March 02, 2015 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir left for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Monday for the highly-anticipated talks with the armed opposition leader, Riek Machar.
The minister for the presidency, Awan Riak and several other key government officials accompanied the South Sudanese leader to Ethiopia.
Riak was optimistic a permanent solution to the ongoing conflict would be found.
“We are optimistic, hoping that the other side [opposition] will also be mindful of the lives and the properties of South Sudan so that we could reach a final settlement,” Riak told reporters in the capital, Juba on Monday.
“We hope and its our prayer that the peace comes back to our people,” he added.
Officials at South Sudan’s foreign affairs ministry said Kiir will be joined on Tuesday by the country’s foreign minister, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, currently on a visit to the European Union (EU) member countries as talks of sanctions gain momentum.
President Kiir skipped last week’s opening session of the talks, raising fears that the negotiations mediated by regional leaders would fail.
The two South Sudanese rival factions are yet to agree on whether or not there should be two armed forces during the pre-interim period and beyond as well as the hierarchical structure of the government.
The regional bloc (IGAD) has given the two warring parties up to 5 March to conclude the dialogue, but it remains to be seen if they will overcome difficulties in negotiations.
President Kiir and Machar signed a commitment document on 1 February to reach an agreement on the formation of Transitional Government of National Unity by 5 March.
Talks resumed in Addis Ababa last week between government and the rebels amid looming United Nations Security Council sanctions on South Sudanese leaders.
The spokesperson for the foreign affairs ministry, Mawien Makol said the participation of the president would add weight to the government delegation and also demonstrate commitment of his administration to end the conflict, through peaceful dialogue.
Last week, Machar urged president Kiir to show up for direct negotiations in order to quickly resolve major sticking points and end the 14-month long conflict in the country.