New York, US - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the UN Security Council have welcomed the signing of an agreement between anti- and pro-government forces in South Sudan, a step towards a comprehensive deal that would halt the violence that has engulfed the country for more than a month. Representatives of President Salva Kiir and former deputy president Riek Machar signed the agreement on cessation of hostilities, following three-weeks of talks mediated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.
A UN statement on Friday said that Ban called on the parties to immediately implement the agreement and also congratulated IGAD on its 'successful mediation'.
The UN chief also underscored the need to continue without delay a national political dialogue to reach a comprehensive peace agreement, with the participation of all South Sudanese political and civil society representatives, including the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) detainees.
He reiterated his call for all parties to ensure freedom of movement for UNMISS, humanitarian workers and human rights monitors, and welcomed the Government of South Sudan’s reassurances of its full support to the Mission and commitment to honour its Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).
'The United Nations stands with the people of South Sudan and will continue to do everything within its means to protect civilians at risk and provide the necessary humanitarian assistance,' Ban said.
The 15 members of the Security Council also voiced their support for the agreement, welcoming the signing as a move towards comprehensive reconciliation which deals with root causes of the conflict.
The Council also condemned violent attacks against civilians.
'The Council Members, all of them, expressed support for UNMISS (UN Mission in South Sudan) and reiterated importance that all parties cooperate fully with UNMISS,' the statement said.
It also said that the Council condemned 'attacks and accusations mounted against UNMISS and called for all parties to stop such acts and cooperate with the Mission in the fulfilment of its mandate'.
The ceasefire seeks to ease a political dispute in the world’s youngest nation between President Kiir and his former deputy, Mr. Machar, who was removed from office in July of 2013 and later accused of attempting a coup.
The tensions escalated on 15 December into a full-scale conflict between forces loyal to either side, driving 400,000 people from their homes and leaving twice as many in dire need of aid.