Kerry Warns South Sudan Leaders of Consequences If Talks Fail

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar may incur consequences including sanctions if they shun direct peace talks being held in neighboring Ethiopia.

Kerry on a visit to Addis Ababa on May 1 called for a strengthened peacekeeping force to be swiftly deployed in South Sudan to help stop “ethnic, tribal, targeted nationalistic killings” that could spiral into genocide. Kiir in mid-December accused his former deputy Machar and other political leaders of staging a failed coup in the capital, Juba, sparking a wider conflict with ethnic dimensions that has left thousands of people dead and more than a million displaced, according to the United Nations.

Machar said he sees no reason to hold talks with Kiir because the conflict is unrelated to any personal issue and therefore it that can’t be resolved over the course of a meeting.

Machar “has a fundamental decision to make, if he decides not to and procrastinates we have a number of options,” Kerry said. “There will be accountability and implications if people do not join into this effort. If there is a total refusal by one party or the other to participate, not only might sanctions be engaged, but there are other serious implications and possible consequences.”

Kerry said even though Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said he received a commitment from Machar that he would attend the discussions, Machar has also “expressed some concern about logistics.”

Both parties should seize the moment and make peace, said Kerry.

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