South Sudanese President Salva Kiir (R) and South Sudanese first Vice-President Riek Machar (L) sing the national anthem in Juba, capital of South Sudan, April 26, 2016. Riek Machar was sworn in as South Sudan's first vice president, hours after his return to the capital Juba on Tuesday. (Xinhua/Denis Elamu)
JUBA, July 8 (Xinhua) -- South Sudan's President Salva Kiir and First Vice President Riek Machar on Friday evening called on their respective forces to restrain and return to their bases after gunfire was heard this afternoon outside the State House where the two men were meeting.
In a joint televised news conference in the capital Juba, Kiir and Machar called on people holding guns to put them down.
"The incident that happened is very unfortunate and was uncalled for because there is no reason for all these things," Kiir said.
"We were meeting to resolve whatever dispute that might have happened these days so that we move forward not to be brought down in the implementation of the peace agreement," he said, referring to the peace deal signed last August that led to the reconciliation of the two leaders who were once enemies.
South Sudan descended into civil war in December 2013 after a falling out between Kiir and his then sacked deputy Machar.
Under the peace deal, a national unity government was formed in April with Machar returning to his old post.
However, tensions are said to have risen in the past week between forces loyal to Kiir and Machar.
Gunfire was heard outside the State House when Kiir and Machar were both at the compound, preparing to address the news conference.
The two, accompanied by Second Vice President James Wani Igga, played down the incident which came barely a day after five soldiers were killed in clashes between their troops in Juba.
"Me, Riek and James Wani are all here in State House having a meeting to address the Thursday night clashes and before we could finish we also heard the sounds of gun fire like you journalists," Kiir told journalists.
William Ezekiel, a spokesperson for Machar's Sudan People's Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLM-IO), confirmed there was gunfire outside the State House which lasted close to an hour.
Kiir later said officials would meet on Saturday to discuss pending issues over the tensions between the army factions.
"Now that it has happened, we have to continue finding a solution for it. I will still call my colleagues tomorrow (Saturday) so that we can sit down and complete what we did not finish before," Kiir said.
On his part, Machar called on all forces in the country to respect the August 2015 peace deal and lay down their arms and allow their leaders to proceed with dialogue.
"This is an interruption to the good process that we have initiated. We want to continue with the process of dialogue among ourselves so that the country comes out of this conflict," Machar said.
"So we are calling upon all South Sudanese with arms or without arms to respect the ceasefire. Your government is making efforts to ensure that the peace is implemented. We are telling the whole world that we are serious with implementation of the peace agreement," he said.
Five soldiers were killed and two others wounded in the Thursday evening clashes.
The gunfire on Friday is believed to be from another clashes between troops loyal to Kiir and Machar. There is no word on causalities.
Tensions have risen between the army factions in the past week after SPLM-IO accused President Kiir's forces of allegedly targeting them.