JUBA, March 14 (Xinhua) -- South Sudanese rebels on Monday revealed that they will only negotiate with the Indian government over the release of two Indian oil workers captured last week at Guelguk in the northern Upper Nile region.
South Sudan People's Liberation Army- in Opposition (SPLA-IO) spokesman Colonel William Gatjiath who admitted holding the oil workers told Xinhua late Monday that they preferred negotiations with the Indian government.
"We need Indian government to come down and negotiate with us in our (Pagak) headquarters," he said.
Pagak is located near the Ethiopian border and used to host high command meetings of the SPLA-IO led by rebel leader and former first vice president Riek Machar who has been exiled in South Africa after fleeing the renewed July clash in 2016.
Information Minister Michael Makuei earlier ruled out any negotiations with the SPLA-IO whom he accused of demanding 1 million U.S dollars in ransom for the abducted oil workers.
"The government of South Sudan will not pay anybody (SPLA-IO). This will encourage terrorism," Makuei revealed on Monday, and instead demanded for unconditional release of the oil workers.
But it remains to be seen if the Indian government will give in to the rebel demands, after the South Sudanese Minister of Petroleum Ezekiel Gatkuoth having disclosed that the latter had left the Juba government to deal with the situation.
"The Indian government told us they are not going to get enter into this," Gatkuoth said.
South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013, following political dispute between president Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar resulting in killing of tens of thousands and displacement of more than two million.
However, renewed July fighting in 2016 threatened to tear apart the fragile 2015 peace agreement to end the conflict.