South Sudan government ‘agrees ceasefire’ with rebels ahead of peace talks

Abrupt conflict has already claimed more than 1,000 lives and seen 180,000 displaced, UN says

The government of South Sudan and rebel leaders have reportedly agreed to a ceasefire ahead of peace talks in Ethiopia this afternoon.

A “cessation of hostilities” between the major warring factions has been announced, according to representatives from the IGAD organisation of six eastern African countries.

“President Salva Kiir Mayardit and Dr. Riek Machar agree on a cessation of hostilities and appoint negotiators to develop a monitored and implemented ceasefire,” read a statement from the bloc which includes the Ethiopian diplomats who have been central to mediation efforts.

Donald Booth, the US special envoy to South Sudan, confirmed that the two factions had agreed to attend imminent talks in the neighbouring country.

Mr Booth described the commitment from both sides as “a first but very important step to achieving a cessation of hostilities”.

Earlier, the rebel leader Machar told the BBC he would be willing to enter peace talks after his forces captured the key town of Bor.

South Sudan has been thrown into an abrupt and bloody civil war since 15 December when a skirmish between presidential guards escalated into violence throughout the country along ethnic lines.

The country has been plagued by ethnic tension and a power struggle within the ruling party since it became the world’s youngest independent state in July 2011.

The UN and other external analysts say the current dispute is political at its heart, but has since taken on ethnic overtones. The fighting has seen more than 1,000 people killed and up to 180,000 180,000, according to the UN.

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