South Sudan talks are on hold

Juba - South Sudan's government and rebels are taking a more than two-week break from key peace talks having seemingly made little to no progress in three weeks, mediators said on Tuesday.

The IGAD regional bloc, which is brokering the peace talks being held in Ethiopia, said both sides were halting the talks until March 20 in order “to further reflect and consult on guiding documents of the process”.

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir (right) addresses a news conference at the Presidential Palace in capital, Juba, on December 16, 2013. File picture: Hakim George. Credit: Reuters

A spokesperson for IGAD, Tigist Hailu, said the two sides had yet to even finalise a framework for the talks, which are aimed at resolving the underlying causes of South Sudan's slide into conflict.

The conflict broke out in the capital Juba on December 15 amid tensions within the ruling party of President Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar, but quickly spread across the country.

The unrest in South Sudan, the world's newest nation, has left thousands dead and displaced close to 900 000 people, including tens of thousands who have crammed into UN bases in fear of ethnic attacks by either Kiir's Dinka tribe or rebel leader Machar's Nuer tribe.

The two signs signed a ceasefire agreement on January 23, but heavy fighting has continued to rage in several oils, including the key northern oil hub of Malakal which was recaptured by rebels. - AFP