I welcome the agreement signed last night in Addis Ababa by President Kiir and former Vice-President Machar, under which both parties agreed to a Cessation of Hostilities within 24 hours, to rededicate themselves to the Cessation of Hostilities agreement of 23 January, to facilitate unhindered humanitarian access to all populations affected by conflict, and to establish a transitional government of national unity. This is an important and long overdue step towards ending the conflict in South Sudan. It is essential that both sides ensure its immediate implementation and take full responsibility for the forces under their control. Only with continued engagement and the genuine commitment of both sides will South Sudan be able to pull back from catastrophe. This conflict has caused innumerable deaths, forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes, and brought the country to the brink of famine.
Despite this positive step, the fighting in South Sudan has continued over recent days, with reports of escalating violence in Bentiu and further loss of life. Last week’s UN Human Rights report made clear the horrific scale and nature of atrocities that both sides have committed. As the UN report makes clear, deliberate and persistent targeting of civilians and attacks on individuals because of their ethnicity may constitute crimes against humanity.
I call on both the Government of South Sudan and the rebels to acknowledge the gravity of the UN report and respond constructively to its recommendations. They must ensure that no more lives are lost, that no more atrocities are perpetrated and that those responsible are held to account. The UK stands ready to provide all necessary assistance to the UN and the African Union Commission of Inquiry as they carry out their investigations, and continues to support the tireless efforts of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development and its mediators to bring an end to the suffering in South Sudan.