Juba - A new round of talks on ending South Sudan's nearly six-month-old civil war have been delayed, mediators said on Wednesday.
No explanation was given for the latest delay in the talks, which are aimed at building on a ceasefire agreement signed last month and paving the way for more face-to-face talks between President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar, a former vice-president.
“We won't have the talks today,” a source close to the peace process told AFP in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital and seat of the African Union, where previous rounds of talks have been held.
Instead, officials said a three-day “multi-party symposium” involving the government, the rebels and religious and civil society groups would open on Thursday at the AU headquarters.
The meeting is aimed at launching an “inclusive phase of the mediation process based on a consensual, round table, multi-party dialogue,” said a statement from the East African regional bloc IGAD, which is brokering the talks.
Face-to-face talks between the warring parties will likely “be determined after the symposium”, the source said.
South Sudan has continued to be hit by fighting since a ceasefire was signed in January and again last month, deepening a crisis which has already killed thousands and displaced over one million people.
Aid agencies are warning of a worsening humanitarian situation, with a cholera outbreak spreading beyond the capital Juba and a massive famine looming.
The nearly six month-old conflict has pitted government troops against forces loyal to Machar. The fighting has taken on an ethnic dimension, with Dinka people loosely tied to Kiir fighting the Nuer, Machar's tribe.