Sudan said Tuesday that South Sudanese rebel chief Riek Machar has agreed to sign a final peace deal with Juba to end a brutal civil war after initially refusing to do so.
Machar and President Salva Kiir have held weeks of talks in Khartoum in search of a comprehensive peace deal to end the conflict, which has killed tens of thousands and displaced millions since 2013 in the world’s youngest country.
The warring parties have already inked several agreements, including a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing deal that sees Machar returning as first vice president in the government.
But earlier on Tuesday in what was seen as a setback to ongoing peace efforts, Machar refused to sign the deal even as Juba inked it.
Hours later the Sudanese mediators announced that he had agreed to sign it.
“After intense negotiations by Sudanese mediators, Riek Machar agreed to sign the document on Thursday, August 30,” Sudanese Foreign Minister Al-Dierdiry Ahmed told reporters.
Machar and other rebel groups had initially refused to sign the draft, saying their reservations had not been acknowledged in the text.
The rebel groups had differences over the functioning of a proposed transitional government, how many states the country should be divided into and on the writing of a new constitution.
South Sudan finally became independent from Sudan in 2011, but a little over two years later a fresh war erupted pitting Kiir against Machar, his former deputy.
The conflict has seen widespread rape and murder of civilians, often along ethnic lines, and uprooted roughly a third of the population.
A succession of peace deals have been signed between the two leaders only to be broken, most recently in December.