(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) East African leaders Friday called on South Sudan's President Salva Kiir and political rival Riek Machar to meet face to face within four days to end the escalating violence in the world's youngest nation. The leaders urged Kiir and Machar to meet before year-end, adding that they would not accept South Sudan's government being toppled through use of military force. "If hostilities do not cease within four days, the summit will consider further measures," Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom told journalists at the end of the meeting in Nairobi.
Kiir met with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday in the capital Juba, German Press Agency dpa reported. But Machar sent a defiant message via BBC on Friday "from the bush," declaring that the conditions for a ceasefire have not been met. He noted that only two of his allied politicians have been released from detention of the 11 he wants to be freed. The detainees are charged with attempting a coup to overthrow Kiir.
Fighting, which erupted on December 15 in capital Juba and spread rapidly to six out of 10 states in South Sudan, reportedly claimed hundreds of lives and displaced tens of thousands of people. Heads of state from Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Somalia and Djibouti met with South Sudan's foreign minister and Sudan's vice president. The summit "commends the expressed commitment of both sides to engage in dialogue," urging the "immediate pursuit of a political solution," the leaders said in a statement.
They also "welcomed the commitment by the government of the Republic of South Sudan to an immediate cessation of hostilities and called upon Dr Riek Machar and other parties to make similar commitments." Kiir and his former deputy Machar, whose rebel forces started the conflict, were not part of the talks.