Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed the start yesterday of the South Sudan political talks between the Government and the opposition, and stressed the need for the parties to adhere to the ceasefire signed last month.
Thousands of people are believed to have been killed and some 870,000 others have fled their homes, 145,000 of them to neighbouring countries and 75,000 to United Nations bases within the country, since fighting broke out on 15 December between the forces of President Salva Kiir and former deputy president Riek Machar.
The political talks between the Government of South Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in opposition, are taking place in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, under the auspices of the East African regional body known as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
"The Secretary-General reiterates the importance of national political dialogue, with the participation of all South Sudanese political and civil society representatives, including all senior SPLM detainees," Mr. Ban's spokesperson said in a statement.
The spokesperson added that the Secretary-General notes with deep concern the reports of ongoing fighting and skirmishes in parts of Unity and Upper Nile states and that he reiterates the need for the parties to fully implement the Agreements on Cessation of Hostilities and on the Status of Detainees signed on 23 January.
"The Secretary-General also calls on all parties to respect the lifesaving work and ensure unhindered freedom of movement of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and of all humanitarian workers," said the statement.
In addition, Mr. Ban condemned the use in the South Sudan conflict of cluster bombs, remnants of which were found last week by the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS), on the Juba-Bor road in Jonglei state.
UNMAS has deployed a clearance team specialized in unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Bor to support the Mission's role in facilitating access.
The team, which arrived on 5 February, was requested to ensure that compounds and buildings used by international stakeholders are free from explosive remnants of war and small arms ammunition removed.
The Mission added in an update today that four UNMAS teams are traveling to Bentiu by road to clear unexploded remnants of war in the capital as well as other areas in northern Unity state.
The teams have different capacities, to clear UXOs, landmines, survey roads and provide risk education to affected population.