Bashir offers hosting talks between South Sudan rivals


First Vice President of South Sudan and former rebel leader, Riek Machar, and President Salva Kiir in Juba on April 29, 2016.

KHARTOUM - Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has offered to host peace talks in Khartoum between South Sudan&39;s bitter rivals President Salwa Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar, a foreign ministry official said Tuesday.

Bashir&39;s offer was delivered to Kiir by a Sudanese delegation that visited Juba on Tuesday and comes just days after the UN Security Council adopted a resolution that gave South Sudanese warring sides one month to reach a peace deal or face possible sanctions.

The Sudanese delegation was led by Foreign Minister Al-Dierdiry al-Dhikheri and included Salah Ghosh, the chief of Sudan&39;s powerful National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS).

"The delegation delivered a verbal message from President Omar al-Bashir to President Salwa Kiir regarding an initiative to support efforts to achieve peace between the conflicting parties in South Sudan," Sudanese foreign ministry spokesman Garib Allah Khadr said in a statement.

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Bashir offered to "host a meeting between Kiir and South Sudanese opposition leader Riek Machar," he said.

"President Kiir welcomed the initiative and affirmed his government&39;s readiness to participate in the meeting."

Khadr did not say when a meeting was scheduled or whether Machar had agreed to it.

Bashir&39;s offer comes even as the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) group is mediating peace talks between Kiir and Machar.

South Sudan, the world&39;s youngest nation formed after splitting from the north in 2011, descended into war in December 2013 when Kiir accused his former deputy Machar of plotting a coup.

A peace deal was signed two years later but collapsed in July 2016 when fresh fighting in the capital Juba forced Machar into exile.

The renewed violence spread across the country, and numerous new armed opposition groups have formed, further complicating peace efforts.

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Efforts to revitalise a 2015 peace agreement resulted in a ceasefire in December which lasted just hours before warring parties accused each other of breaking it.

Tens of thousands have died and nearly four million South Sudanese have been driven from their homes, while millions are going hungry amid a massive humanitarian crisis.

Last week the UN Security Council gave the two warring sides a month to reach a peace deal or face sanctions.

South Sudan won independence from Sudan with critical backing from the United States, which remains Juba&39;s biggest aid donor.

But Washington has grown increasingly frustrated with Kiir&39;s government as the brutal war grinds on, now in its fourth year.

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