JUBA, June 7 (Xinhua) -- South Sudan's main rebel group, the Sudan People's Liberation Army-in opposition (SPLA-IO), said on Thursday that its leader, former First Vice President Riek Machar, is happy to meet his rival President Salva Kiir as requested by regional leaders.
The SPLA-IO said in a statement that Machar is more than happy to meet Kiir in the country or region following the recent request by the Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir to mediate face to face talks between the warring leaders in Khartoum.
"Despite the propaganda of the regime and for the sake of peace, the SPLM/SPLA-IO Chairman and Commander in Chief, Riek Machar Teny is more than happy to meet with President Salva Kiir in any IGAD country, including Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda; or any country outside the region, including Mauritania," the rebels said.
Last week, the East African regional bloc, IGAD, which is mediating efforts to revive South Sudan's stalled 2015 peace deal, recommended a Kiir-Machar meeting before the next African Union summit slated for July in Mauritania.
The meeting was called for after the several warring parties in South Sudan last month failed to agree during the second round of the High Level Revitalization Forum held in Ethiopia.
The SPLA-IO denied any awareness about the proposed face-to-face meeting by Sudan involving Machar and President Kiir in Khartoum saying they have not been informed officially.
"The truth is that the SPLM/SPLA-IO has not received any official communication regarding the venue of any prospective 'face-to-face' meeting between President Kiir and Machar," said the rebels.
However, the rebels admitted knowledge of peace efforts by Kenyan opposition figure Raila Odinga to help mediate between the rival leaders in the South Sudan conflict.
The SPLA-IO further said they are fully committed to the peace process and shall continue to engage positively with IGAD in helping achieve peace.
South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013 after political dispute between Kiir and Machar, leading to killing of thousands and displacement of millions of people.
A peace agreement signed in 2015 between the warring parties was again shattered after renewed violence broke out in July 2016.