JUBA, July 10 (Xinhua) -- South Sudan President Salva Kiir is open to meeting rebel leader Riek Machar as recently suggested by the African Union to expedite the implementation of the outstanding issues in the peace deal both parties signed last year in Ethiopia, a government official said on Wednesday.
Michael Makuei Lueth, minister of information and broadcasting told Xinhua that Machar, leader of the main rebel group the Sudan People's Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) is welcome to Juba to have face-to-face talks with Kiir on speeding up peace implementation as the parties are left with only four months before the formation of the transitional unity government in November.
"For us of course we have no problem with Riek Machar meeting the president, if Machar wants to meet the president the doors are open for him to meet him. So he can come to Juba anytime if he so wishes to come and meet the president," said Lueth in Juba.
Lueth allayed fears of the warring parties failing to meet the pre-transitional deadline, saying that they could still accomplish all the outstanding issues that include screening and cantonment of forces, determining the number of states and demarcation of ethnic boundaries.
"We are now in the process of establishment of the cantonment sites, all the other issues are in place," he said.
The AU on Tuesday called for immediate political engagement by the Troika (US, Britain and Norway), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and the AU with the leaders of South Sudan to impress upon them the imperative for engaging in direct talks in order for them to provide the required leadership and cohesion in the implementation process.
According to the revitalized peace agreement mediated by the regional body IGAD, the Technical Border Committee (TBC) is tasked with demarcation of tribal boundaries and the Independent Boundaries Commission (IBC) will determine the number of states.
Experts have long said that the tasks of the TBC and IBC are challenging due to the fact that president Kiir increased the number of states to 32 from the initial 10 states in 2014 which now remains a contentious issue as debate rages on whether to revert to the former 10 states.
The SPLM/A-IO have already supported the reverting to the 10 states but the government is eager to maintain the 32 states.
Lueth said that both the TBC and IBC bodies have failed to fast-track border demarcation and determination of the number of states within the period stipulated in the revitalized peace agreement.
South Sudan descended into conflict in December 2013, pitting forces loyal to Riek Machar against troops loyal to President Salva Kiir which has killed tens of thousands and displaced millions of people both internally and externally.