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Juba seeks regional support for exclusion of seven officials in peace talks

April 2, 2014 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s government is embarking on efforts aimed at persuading regional leaders to support its position on the exclusion of seven senior political officials accused of involvement in an alleged coup attempt from peace talks

Former South Sudanese detainees hold a press conference in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on 13 February 2014 (Photo: IGAD)

The move comes a day after the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which is mediating the talks, suspended negotiations in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, until 30 April.

It is not clear why the mediation team suspended the talks and no official statements have been issued.

However, sources from both sides claim the request was to allow mediators to undertake consultations with the heads of state of IGAD member countries over South Sudan’s position that the seven officials be excluded from the negotiation process.

The talks closed without the signing of the general declaration of principles, which outlines the main issues identified by the two parties, covering governance matters, democratisation and general public sector reform

The group of seven politicians from South Sudan’s ruling SPLM party were arrested in connection to their role in an alleged plot in mid-December to overthrow the Salva Kiir-led administration, before later being released on bail.

South Sudan is seeking to have negotiations restricted to the two parties directly involved in the conflict, arguing that all other political actors could participate in the subsequent processes after the conclusion of talks.

In an attempt to garner support from regional leaders, Kiir travelled to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, on Monday where according to his spokesperson, Ateny Wek Ateny, he held “successful talks” with the country’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, on the matter.

Ateny confirmed Kiir would also travel to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, but said preparations were “still underway”. However, Sudanese press have reported that Kiir is due to arrive in Khartoum by Saturday.

Ateny said the visit aimed to amplify bilateral relations between the two nations and promote dialogue on issues relating to the 2012 cooperation agreement, as well as to provide update to his Sudanese counterpart Omer Hassan al-Bashir on efforts to restore stability in the new nation.

Meanwhile, the seven officials issued a statement on Tuesday condemning the South Sudanese government’s stance and accusing it of attempting to stall the progress of peace talks.

(ST)