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South Sudan’s Kiir, Machar to meet on Wednesday in Addis Ababa

(COMBO) This combination of pictures created on June 19, 2018 shows (L)South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir arriving to attend the Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) during the 30th annual AU summit in Addis Ababa on January 29, 2018 and (R) South Sudan’s rebel leader Riek Machar gestures as he holds a press conference in Kampala on January 26, 2016. South Sudan president Salva Kiir will meet with rebel leader Riek Machar in Ethiopia’s capital on June 20, 2018, their first meeting in nearly two years, an Ethiopian official said on June 19, 2018./ AFP PHOTO / SIMON MAINA AND ISAAC KASAMANI

South Sudan President Salva Kiir will meet with rebel leader Riek Machar in Ethiopia’s capital on Wednesday in their first face-to-face in nearly two years, an Ethiopian official said Tuesday.

“The two principals will meet in Addis Ababa upon the invitation extended by his excellency, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed,” Meles Alem, a spokesman for Ethiopia’s foreign ministry, told AFP.

South Sudan’s ambassador to Ethiopia, James Pitia Morgan, confirmed Kiir’s planned attendance, as did Manasseh Zindo, a senior official in Machar’s SPLM-IO rebel group.

The two leaders, whose political rivalry triggered the start of a civil war more than four years ago have not met since Machar and his forces were chased from the capital during fighting in July 2016.

Successive international efforts — led by regional bloc IGAD — have so far failed to impose a functioning peace deal or meaningful ceasefire.

Abiy “will call upon the two leaders to narrow their gap and work for the pacification of South Sudan,” Meles said.

Tens of thousands have died and nearly four million South Sudanese have been driven from their homes since December 2013, while millions are going hungry amid a massive humanitarian crisis.

Last month the UN Security Council gave the warring sides a month to reach a peace deal or face sanctions.

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