[caption id="attachment_67777" align="aligncenter" width="640"] US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday urged sacked South Sudan vice president turned rebel leader Riek Machar to talk to President Salva Kiir. File photo by Bulent Kilic/AFP[/caption]
WASHINGTON (AFP) – US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday, December 24, urged sacked South Sudan vice president turned rebel leader Riek Machar to declare a ceasefire and talk to President Salva Kiir, a US official told Agence France-Presse.
"He urged him to implement a ceasefire and begin mediated political talks," the official said, after Machar told French radio he was ready to begin talks on halting his country's mounting conflict.
Machar, whose forces have clashed several times in recent days with Kiir's troops, told Radio France Internationale: "Yes we are ready for talks. I have formed my delegation."
He confirmed he had spoken to Kerry and to Ethiopian foreign minister Tedros Adhanom and had agreed to send envoys to talks on "neutral ground," probably in Ethiopia.
"We want a democratic nation. We want democratic free and fair elections. We want Salva Kiir to call it a day," he said.
South Sudan, which formally declared independence in July 2011 and is still the world's youngest country, has long been unruly but dramatically erupted into more intense violence last week.
Troops loyal to rivals Kiir and Machar are battling for territory and control of oil resources, and there have been reports of atrocities against civilians and of massacres targeted along ethnic lines.