South Sudan Receives Stern Warning From Washington

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After thousands have died in three weeks of fighting between warring factions in South Sudan, U.S. Secretary John Kerry said peace talks have to come with sincere intentions to stop the violence, and not just be a way for either side to buy time.

"Negotiations have to be serious, they cannot be a delay [or] gimmick in order to continue the fighting and try to find advantage on the ground at the expense of the people of South Sudan," said Kerry. "Both parties need to put the interests of South Sudan above their own. The beginning of direct talks is a very important step, but make no mistake, it is only a first step. There's a lot more to do."

The two opposing sides--those who back South Sudan's President Salva Kiir and those who back former vice president Riek Machar--have been involved in a bloody conflict since Dec. 15, and on Friday, Jan. 3, the U.S. embassy in South Sudan pulled out additional staff members, because it felt the amount of security it had subsided in recent days.

But Kerry said obtaining political power through force will not be tolerated and any side that does so will be on the receiving end of a strong global backlash. "[Washington] will deny support and we will work to apply international pressure to any elements who attempt to use force to seize power," he said. The world will be "watching very closely to see that a halt to the fighting on the ground takes place."

Michael Makuei, South Sudan's Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, said his country's government will not be strong armed by the international community to release prisoners who allegedly staged a recent coup.

"We thought the international community would come in support of us," he said to reporters in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. "There is no way we can be asked to release people who are arrested and charged. It would set a "bad precedent."

Image via Wikimedia Commons