John Kerry Threatens South Sudan Rebel Leader Riek Machar If He Shuns Peace Talks

 
on May 05 2014 9:07 PM
Riek Machar
Opposition leader Riek Machar sits at his hideout in Upper Nile State, South Sudan, March 13, 2014. Jacey Fortin

LUANDA, Angola (Reuters) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry threatened sanctions and other "consequences" Monday for South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar if he refuses to commit to peace talks aimed at ending more than four months of fighting that has killed thousands.

Kerry flew to South Sudan on Friday, securing a commitment from President Salva Kiir to fly to Ethiopia for face-to-face talks with his rival Machar. But Kerry failed to win a similar commitment from Machar when he later spoke with him by phone.

"He has a fundamental decision to make. If he decides not to (go) and procrastinates, then we have a number of different options that are available to us," said Kerry, speaking to reporters in Angola's capital, his last stop on a nearly weeklong trip to Africa.

"Let me make it clear, if there is a total refusal by one party or the other to engage ... not only might sanctions be engaged, but there are other serious implications and possible consequences," he added.

Kerry, who said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would go to South Sudan's capital, Juba, on Tuesday, noted that these consequences also included "accountability" for atrocities committed in the conflict.

"There are any number of possibilities," Kerry said.

The South Sudanese army battled Machar's rebels in and around the northern oil town of Bentiu on Monday, dampening hopes over the renewed peace efforts.

Kerry condemned recent military offensives by South Sudan's government forces against opposition-held positions in Bentiu, Nassir and other places in Unity and Jonglei states.

"These attacks blatantly violate the Jan. 23 Cessation of Hostilities agreement and contradict commitments President Kiir has made in recent days," Kerry said in a statement. "We call on all parties to rededicate themselves to the agreement, not just in words, but in actions, and to halt all military offensives."

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