ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Troubled talks to end more than a year of fighting in South Sudan broke up without a deal on Friday, prompting the mediator to say leaders on both sides were failing in their duty to find peace.
The adjournment was the latest impasse in negotiations over the world’s youngest country — where a political row between President Salva Kiir and his sacked deputy Riek Machar triggered a conflict that has killed more than 10,000 people.
Hailemariam Desalegn, Ethiopia’s prime minister and the chairman of regional body IGAD which is hosting the talks in Addis Ababa, said he had asked both sides to offer compromises rather than just repeat their old positions.
“Both regional and world leaders joined this call. Unfortunately, as the missed deadline shows, our pleas have not been heeded,” he added in a statement.
Kiir and Machar had said they wanted peace, but others “continue to beat the drums of war,” he said.
In a message to the South Sudanese people, Hailemariam added: “Leadership is never easy, but continuing a war flagrantly disregards the interests of you, the people. It is an abdication of the most sacred duty leaders have to you, their people: to deliver peace, prosperity and stability.”
His comments echoed widespread frustration at the lack of progress in South Sudan, an oil-producing country which seceded from Sudan in 2011 with promises of good will and support from most world powers.
Hailemariam said he would press Kiir and Machar to keep to an earlier agreement to share power in a transitional government by July.
But in another possible sign of disillusionment over the peace efforts, a confidential African Union report seen by Reuters this week suggested both Kiir and Machar be barred from any transitional government and the country effectively be placed under the continental body’s control.
Spokespeople from both Kiir and Machar’s sides said the adjournment did not mean the peace process had collapsed. “We are suspending the talks for further consultations,” South Sudan government spokesman Michael Makuei said.
“The gap is still very wide, but we are capable of narrowing and bringing peace to our country,” said Machar spokesman Dhieu Mathok.
Diplomats in Addis Ababa said the latest talks were held up by disagreement over the structure of a future government, and how much power would be allocated to each side.
More than 1.5 million people have fled the ethnically-fuelled fighting which erupted in December 2013 and has often pitted Kiir’s Dinka people against the Nuer of Machar.
Addtional reporting by Kumerra Gemechu in Addis Ababa; Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Andrew Heavens