South Sudan rebel leader Dr Riek Machar and his forces are responsible for the ceasefire violations in the country and will face consequences if they do not return to the negotiating table, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said, in statements put out by the State Department.
Speaking in Washington, D.C. where he met President Salva Kiir and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Mr Kerry said members of the UN Security Council would visit the region to increase pressure on the warring parties to lay down arms.
“I just want the record to be clear that it is our judgment – and the former Vice President Mr Machar needs to understand this- that he has broken – it was his initiative that broke the agreement and took his troops back into a violent status. And he needs to understand the importance of living by the agreements. In my conversations with the prime minister of Ethiopia, who made it clear this is his judgment also, he needs to understand the international community is going to be impatient with those breaches.”
Mr Kerry met the two African leaders separately on the sidelines of the U.S. – Africa Leadership Summit and made clear Washington’s support for President Kiir and the formation of a unity transitional government.
“We have said before and I reiterate now that the president is the duly elected, constitutional president of South Sudan, and this is a rebel group,” he said, calling for a negotiated settlement to the civil war that broke out last December.
As the leaders met in Washington, officials from the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which is coordinating the peace process in South Sudan, announced that the rebel delegation had not turned up for scheduled talks on Tuesday.
The statement from the U.S. official represents a setback to Dr Machar who has been picking up airmiles in the region canvassing for diplomatic and political support.
Mr Kerry also met with Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta, Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), Ismail Omar Guelleh (Djibouti) and Mr Desalegn during which the IGAD leaders agreed to hold a regional summit soon to try and end the fighting.
“There is a unanimous agreement that this war must end and must end now,” Mr Kerry said. “ These leaders will go back to their region and meet in Addis Ababa very, very soon, where they will decide on specific actions that they are prepared to take in unanimous fashion with their countries in an effort to guarantee that the war comes to an end. They are prepared to issue a final ultimatum to the parties to come to the table.”
The 15 members of the UN Security Council are also expected in the region next week to support the IGAD peace initiative, Mr Kerry added.
Speaking on behalf of IGAD, Mr Desalegn also accused Mr Machar of violating the ceasefire agreement.
“We in the IGAD region and leaders have agreed that the war has to stop and stop very, very quickly,” he said. “And so the region has put the comprehensive solution to the government of transitional national unity, which is going to be established in South Sudan and both parties [have] to agree to this proposal of the region.”
The Ethiopian leader said the region would take “strong action” and impose “punitive action” if the two warring sides did not agree to the proposal. He did not specify whether a military intervention is among the options.
Dr Machar’s spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
Thosands have been killed and many more displaced from their homes since the outbreak of fighting. Aid agencies are warning of famine and a humanitarian crisis if the crisis continues.