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Troika: Warring Parties Must End Hostilities Ahead of Revitalization Forum

President of South Sudan Salva Kiir speaks on the occasion of the sixth anniversary of his country's independence at the presidential palace in Juba, July 9, 2017. For the second year in a row, the young nation will not have any official celebrations to mark the anniversary of its birth because of the widespread suffering caused by its ongoing civil war.

Members of the "Troika" (Norway, United Kingdom and United States) released a statement Thursday saying all parties in South Sudan must end hostilities as a sign of their commitment to the High Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF), which is aimed at implementing a 2015 peace deal that has all but collapsed.

The forum, organized by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), is set to begin in two weeks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Klem Ryan, the coordinator for the U.N. Panel of Experts on South Sudan, says amid the ongoing fighting is a "deep disagreement among parties" on the high-level revitalization forum (HLRF), which he calls "a last chance" to achieve peace in South Sudan.

"The neutral observers are engaging with this as a last chance. Most people have mentioned that to us; some have said it formally on record but many are talking about it behind the scenes as the last chance for an agreed settlement but there isn't at this point as it was communicated to us a very clear sense of what would happen if the HLRF fails," said Ryan. "So I think there is a lot of anxiety and anticipation come December or January if the targets haven't been met."

U.N. discusses South Sudan situation

The U.N. Security council met last Tuesday in New York to discuss the situation in South Sudan.

In its statement, the Troika said it remains "appalled by the dire economic, security, human rights and humanitarian crisis being inflicted" on the South Sudanese people as a result of the nearly four-year conflict, which it blames on the political leaders of South Sudan.

The Troika, which recently traveled to South Sudan, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya to try to drum up support for the upcoming forum, said all parties have a responsibility to the citizens of South Sudan "to participate constructively and to be open to real compromise."

The Troika's statement called on the government "in particular" to end its pursuit of "military victory" and make good on its promise to end obstruction to humanitarian assistance. It also called on the armed opposition to do the same.

Changes should include new timeline

Policy analyst Abraham Awolich with the Juba-based Sudd Institute said in a new report the forum should address factors that led to the collapse of the original deal if there's ever going to be peace in South Sudan.

"You cannot say that you need to revitalize the peace agreement without renegotiating the agreement itself because there are provisions that are absolute and there are provisions that do not make sense anymore," Awolich told South Sudan in Focus.

Those changes include a realistic timeline for implementing the peace deal, and altering security arrangements and transitional justice mechanisms, which Awolich said may have "negatively affected" efforts to restore stability in the country.

Renegotiation rejected

The administration of President Salva Kiir rejected any renegotiation of the peace agreement in recent talks with the heads of IGAD, which mediated previous peace talks between the warring parties.

A recent document circulated by IGAD offers a roadmap for the revitalization process, but it does not mention renegotiation of the agreement.

Awolich criticized the peace deal for not being citizen-based. The Troika said it "strongly supports" calls by South Sudanese citizens for the forum to be inclusive, reflecting the interests of all parties, "including young people and women."

Awolich told VOA that measures must be put in place to popularize the agreement among the people so they will embrace it.

"The national dialogue becomes very important here as an area where people of South Sudan will have to search their souls on how to move their country forward in an environment of peace and cease-fire," said Awolich.

'Clear political will' needed

He said the revitalization process should focus on security arrangements, power sharing and transitional justice, the same three areas the Troika mentions in its statement that are in need of amendments since the agreement no longer reflects "the reality of conditions in South Sudan."

"What is needed here is a clear political will from the side of the government to say our interest here is to bring peace to our country and we are willing to take every measure to make sure there is peace and stability in the country," said Awolich.

"Without that," he added, not much can be achieved.

Awolich said the government is going to have to make "a lot of sacrifices."