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German Foreign Minister Urges Peaceful End to Conflict in Juba Visit

FILE - German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel speaks during a news conference in Berlin, July 20, 2017.

German Foreign Affairs Minister Sigmar Gabriel met Thursday with South Sudan President Salva Kiir and other government officials during a one-day visit to Juba, a day after meeting dozens of South Sudanese refugees in neighboring Uganda, which hosts the largest refugee camp on the continent.

Gabriel urged the country's leaders to use peaceful means to resolve South Sudan's ongoing conflict, saying both sides should be included in efforts to restore peace and stability across the nation.

He said he was happy that Kiir had pardoned rebel prisoners, adding it was "an important sign for the political reconciliation process of the country."

Germany has contributed $90 million in humanitarian aid to South Sudan to protect civilians and help build a durable peace in the war-ravaged country.

The humanitarian situation in the country is dire, with 4 million people displaced by the conflict, severe levels of food insecurity, extreme poverty and disease, including an ongoing cholera outbreak with 18,000 cases resulting in 328 deaths in the past year.

Gabriel said there was no alternative to a peaceful solution for ending the violence in South Sudan, saying the warring parties could not win the conflict militarily.

FILE - Deng Alor, South Sudanese minister of foreign affairs, speaks to reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York, May 2, 2012.
FILE - Deng Alor, South Sudanese minister of foreign affairs, speaks to reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York, May 2, 2012.

South Sudan Minister for Foreign Affairs Deng Alor said the president and his ministers discussed a number of issues with Gabriel, including "the issue of war and peace," as well as humanitarian efforts and revitalization of the peace process.

Homegrown solutions

Gabriel stressed the importance of finding homegrown solutions to South Sudan's conflict to complement regional efforts aimed at achieving peace in the country.

"It is a good thing that the international community and also the neighboring countries like Uganda support the peace process. However, the peace process can only be successful when it comes from South Sudan itself," Gabriel said.

The German foreign minister's Juba visit came amid reports of recent fighting between government and opposition forces in Pagak, a rebel stronghold. Over the past week, both sides have claimed to be in control of Pagak. Those reports have not been independently verified on the ground, as the fighting continued off and on this week.

Earlier this week, when Gabriel traveled to the Ugandan district of Arua, he met South Sudanese refugees who told him about the horrors of war they witnessed before fleeing to Uganda.

"Yesterday, in Uganda, we saw how many people fled from South Sudan to Uganda, because they don't see any other opportunity to secure their survival and that of their children," Gabriel said.

Nearly 1 million refugees from South Sudan have crossed into Uganda since the conflict began in late 2013.