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South Sudan arch foes reach ceasefire deal

Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters | South Sudan President Salva Kiir (R) greets South Sudan Rebel leader Riek Machar in Ethiopia June 21, 2018.

South Sudanese rival leaders on Wednesday broke a deadlock in peace talks in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, agreeing on a ceasefire to take hold after 72 hours, according to Sudan’s foreign minister.

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South Sudan President Salva Kiir and his arch foe, Riek Machar, agreed on “some points,” announced Sudan's Foreign Minister Al-Dirdiri Ahmed in Khartoum following the first face-to-face meeting between Kiir and Machar in almost two years.

"All parties have agreed on a permanent ceasefire within 72 hours of signing the Khartoum Document," said Ahmed, after which Kiir and Machar signed the document in the presence of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

"This day was expected by our people in South Sudan and it has now come," Kiir said after the signing of the agreement.

Machar said the ceasefire must finally lead to the "ending of the war".

Confirming the deal, Sudan’s SUNA news agency said the agreement calls for the opening of corridors for humanitarian aid, the release of prisoners and the withdrawal of forces.

SUNA also reported that the agreement calls on the African Union and East African regional bloc to provide forces to oversee the cease-fire.

UN deadline looms

The latest push for peace in South Sudan comes as part of a fresh bid launched by East African leaders, with the two fighting factions facing a looming deadline to avert UN sanctions.

Several previous ceasefire agreements have been violated.

The Khartoum negotiations came after a round of talks brokered by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed last week in Addis Ababa faltered.

On arriving in Khartoum, Kiir and Machar expressed their readiness to talk peace as the dialogue opened in the presence of Bashir and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

South Sudan's war, which has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced about four million, broke out in December 2013 when Kiir accused his then-deputy Machar of plotting a coup, dashing the optimism that accompanied independence from Sudan just two years earlier.

Since a 2015 peace deal collapsed in July 2016 with Machar fleeing  South Sudan, Kiir's government has gained the upper hand militarily while the opposition has splintered into a myriad of factions.

A landlocked state with a large ethnic mix, South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 after a long and devastating war with Khartoum.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, REUTERS)

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