Don't 'betray and disappoint,' UN chief urges S.Sudan

Jennie Matthew
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United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (pictured) welcomes South Sudan President Salva Kiir's "strong commitment" to a peace agreement aimed at ending 21 months of civil war

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (pictured) welcomes South Sudan President Salva Kiir's "strong commitment" to a peace agreement aimed at ending 21 months of civil war (AFP Photo/John Moore)

United Nations (United States) (AFP) - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged South Sudan Tuesday not to "betray and disappoint" the international community after its president promised to implement a faltering peace deal designed to end civil war.

"We are here all to help you. I hope you will not betray and disappoint us. I sincerely count on your leadership," Ban said shortly after Salva Kiir addressed a high-level meeting at the United Nations via video link.

South Sudan rebel leader, Riek Machar, was also in the room, attending the gathering on the sidelines of the General Assembly in person.

The peace deal, aimed at ending 21 months of civil war between Kiir's government and Machar's rebels, has been marred by heavy fighting.

The army and armed opposition repeatedly accuse each other of breaking the internationally brokered August 29 ceasefire deal, the eighth such agreement to have been signed since civil war broke out in December 2013.

Both Kiir and Machar complained to the high-level meeting about shortcomings in the agreement and blamed each other for recent violations to the ceasefire.

But they also promised what the international community, deeply frustrated that the world's newest country degenerated into devastating civil war just two years after independence, wanted to hear.

"I am deeply committed to the full and timely implementation of the agreement and I have the moral and constitutional responsibility to restore peace and development for my people," Kiir said.

"I am determined to stop this senseless war and make sure, together with my brothers in the armed opposition... (to) build a democratic, united and harmonious country by implementing the agreement," he added.

The violence broke out in December 2013 when Kiir accused arch-rival Machar, whom he sacked six months earlier, of planning a coup.

The violence has killed tens of thousands of people and split the impoverished country along ethnic lines.

Ban welcomed Kiir's "strong commitment" to the agreement in his address to the meeting.

"We are all with you Mr President," Ban told Kiir. "I wish you all the best," he added to applause.

Machar later pledged his "personal commitment" to the peace agreement despite warning that it had not met his "comfortable minimum" demands and that there were serious challenges to implementing it.

"The ceasefire is not holding, I agree with President Salva on that," he said. "The strange thing is, we are attacked, we are blamed."

Speaking in Arabic, Machar added: "He hit us and then he ran to complain. What my country needs is not new forces but fresh ideas, political vision and a roadmap."

Even if the fighting stopped today, UN aid chief Stephen O'Brien said South Sudan's humanitarian needs would continue for "some years" at an annual cost of $1 billion to the international community.