Juba/Addis Ababa — The South Sudanese government announced today the cancellation of a regional meeting that was scheduled for Thursday in Juba citing the upcoming African Union (AU) summit later this month.
Heads of state and governments as well as representatives from the international organizations and foreign diplomats were expected to participate at the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) summit which authorities said was dedicated to discussing the unfolding political crisis in the world's newest nation.
"I would like to confirm that the president had just announced cancellation of the summit at the ambassadorial meeting because of the African Union meeting which is planned to take place in Addis Ababa", Ambassador Mawien Makol, spokesperson for South Sudanese ministry of foreign affairs and international cooperation told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday.
The IGAD foreign ministers meeting which was planned to be held on Wednesday, a day ahead of the leaders' meeting is also cancelled.
Mediators have not yet commented on why the two meetings were cancelled. No new timetable was announced.
The summit was expected to specifically push the two warring parties to sign a ceasefire agreement as ongoing peace talks in neighboring Ethiopia continue to stall.
South Sudanese political rivals on Tuesday began direct talks on the second and sensitive issue of releasing political prisoners after wrapping up discussions on cessation of hostilities.
PROGRESS OF ADDIS ABABA TALKS:
The two sides have concluded the prime issue of cessation of hostilities after managing to narrow their differences on the wording of the draft text prepared by IGAD mediators.
Rebel negotiators on Tuesday confirmed to Sudan Tribune that they have accepted the final proposal on cessation of hostilities but still expressed reservations on Uganda military intervention. They revealed that they have filed complaint on this to IGAD.
South Sudan government negotiators have yet to say whether they will accept the cessation of hostilities proposal.
The direct talks on the release of political prisoners begin today after South Sudan government key negotiators including Minister of Information, Michael Makuei returned to Addis Ababa from Juba last night along with head of IGAD mediators' team, former Ethiopian Foreign Minister, Seyoum Mesfin.
There was no sign of development on talks today's over the release of the 11 pro-rebel political figures who remain detained in Juba on suspicion of links to an alleged coup attempt last month.
The venue of talks was moved today from the luxurious Addis Ababa Sheraton Hotel to the newly opened Saro-Maria hotel near Addis Ababa Bole international Airport.
UGANDA MILITARY INTERVENTION:
Uganda's military intervention in South Sudan is being considered as another major setback to the efforts of quickly resolving political crises in South Sudan, says an official in Addis Ababa.
"We see Uganda's military intervention as an emerging obstacle to the peace process" Ethiopian official at Ministry of foreign Affairs told Sudan Tribune on a condition of anonymity.
He further stressed that this is preventing both sides from reaching a peace deal.
"Uganda's role in south Sudan is not helping in any way to the peace process. It only is complicating the situation" the official said adding that "Uganda's move could be labeled as contrary to the IGAD-led mediation efforts".
As IGAD chair and a host nation of the peace talks, Ethiopia is not happy with Uganda's unilateral move which is also a member of the regional bloc.
IGAD leaders are expected to discuss the Uganda's "negative role" in the coming days, said the official.
The ongoing peace talks were dealt a setback after Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni admitted last week that his army was involved in battle along with South Sudan army (SPLA) against forces loyal to former vice president Riek Machar.
Rebel negotiators later today accused Juba of seeking a way out from signing a ceasefire because they don't want Ugandan troops to pull out from South Sudan.
Speaking to Sudan Tribune, an observer said government forces have recaptured all rebel held towns of Bentiu, Malakal and Bor and that signing truce might now be seen by Juba government as "meaningless".