US calls its ambassador to South Sudan back to Washington

International

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The United States has called its ambassador to South Sudan back to Washington for consultations as Washington reevaluates its relationship with the country after a delay in implementing a fragile peace deal.

The unusual public statement Monday by the State Department was echoed in a tweet by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as the U.S. signaled its frustration with the failure of South Sudan’s rivals to meet this month’s deadline to form a coalition government.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar agreed to postpone that key step for 100 days until mid-February. They had faced a Nov. 12 deadline but said security and governance issues needed to be resolved.

The U.S., the top humanitarian donor to South Sudan, said the delay “calls into question their suitability to continue to lead the nation’s peace process.” Its reevaluation of the relationship with South Sudan could mean further sanctions.

South Sudan’s government has said it wanted to form the coalition government on time and blamed the opposition for the delay. Machar had asked for an extension and warned that the ceasefire would “erupt” without one.

The peace deal was signed in September 2018 after five years of civil war killed nearly 400,000 people.

The conflict began in late 2013, just two years after the country’s independence from Sudan, when supporters of Kiir and Machar, then his deputy, clashed. A previous peace deal under which Machar returned as Kiir’s deputy fell apart amid fresh fighting in 2016 and Machar fled the country on foot.

Under the current agreement Machar would again become Kiir’s deputy.

The Vatican earlier this month said Pope Francis and Anglican leader Justin Welby intend to visit South Sudan together if a coalition government can be formed in the next three months.

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