Sudanese President Omar al—Bashir arrived in Juba on Monday for talks with his South Sudanese counterpart, Salva Kiir, and to bolster regional efforts for a ceasefire deal.
Al—Bashir landed in the South Sudanese capital as East African negotiators are struggling to bring South Sudan’s warring factions to engage in direct negotiations.
Sudanese state media said al—Bashir’s visit would complement the ongoing regional efforts to reach a ceasefire deal and that he is accompanied by several ministers.
Face—to—face negotiations between the South Sudanese factions were meant to commence at the weekend, but have been delayed, in part because the government has refused to release prisoners — a key demand of the opposition led by former vice president Riek Machar.
Negotiators said they are still hopeful that the two sides will initiate talks soon.
More than 1,000 people have died in the fighting that erupted in mid—December, and some 200,000 people have been displaced.
The clashes, which have been taking place along ethnic lines, were between army units loyal to Kiir and ethnic militias backing Machar.
Kiir is from the Dinka people, South Sudan’s largest ethnic group, while Machar is Nuer.
Kiir fired Machar as his deputy in 2013 and accused him of attempting to stage a coup in December, at the start of the conflict.
Machar’s camp — which denies that it attempted an overthrow — accuses Kiir of trying to empower Dinkas in the military at the expense of Nuers.
Meanwhile, the Uganda Red Cross said more than 20,000 South Sudanese refugees have entered the country, with another 10,000 expected to arrive soon.
South Sudan became independent from Sudan in 2011 after decades of civil war.
The talks between the leaders of the two countries are also expected to focus on oil production.
South Sudan exports its oil through Sudanese pipelines. There has been concern that the fighting could disrupt supplies, having negative economic consequences for both countries.