Government and rebels in South Sudan have signed a ceasefire agreement after talks in Ethiopia.
Under the deal, signed in a hotel in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, the fighting is due to come to an end within 24 hours.
In the past week, government forces have recaptured the two main cities under rebel control.
More than 500,000 people have been forced from their homes during the month-long conflict.
“These two agreements are the ingredients to create an environment for achieving a total peace in my country,” said Taban Deng, head of the rebel delegation, AFP reports.
However, the South Sudanese government has expressed skepticism over whether the opposition will be able to control all the militias involved in fighting.
The talks have now been adjourned and are due to continue on February 7.
What started out as a political dispute between President Salva Kiir Mayardit and his former deputy Riek Machar on December 15 escalated into full-scale conflict, with reports of ethnic killings.
South Sudan’s government and rebels have signed a ceasefire agreement after talks in Ethiopia
A ceremony to mark the signing of the agreement on the “cessation of hostilities and the question of the detainees” took place at the hotel where the talks were hosted.
The agreement is thought to address the issue of 11 detainees whom the rebels wanted freed, and whose fate had previously left the talks deadlocked.
The detainees – allies of Riek Machar and prominent political figures from a faction of the governing SPLM party – were taken into custody when Salva Kiir first made the allegations of an attempted coup – which Machar denies.
The South Sudanese government had earlier said on its Twitter feed that it envisaged an amnesty for the detainees but only after their cases had been heard in court.
Another key rebel demand was for Ugandan troops fighting alongside the government forces to be withdrawn.
Last week, the UN human rights chief said both government soldiers and rebels had committed atrocities in South Sudan, one of the world’s poorest countries.
More than 70,000 civilians are seeking shelter at UN bases across South Sudan and the UN estimates that considerably more than 1,000 have been killed.
Following the outbreak of hostilities, it was agreed to boost the UN force and an extra 5,500 peacekeepers are being deployed to South Sudan, to bring its strength up to 12,500.
Kenya is holding a meeting of East Africa’s leaders on growing violence in South Sudan, where more than 1,000 people are believed to have died.
The talks come a day after South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit met the Kenyan president and Ethiopian PM.
Meanwhile, the UN said the first peacekeeping reinforcements were expected to arrive in 48 hours.
South Sudan violence erupted 12 days ago between forces loyal to Salva Kiir and those backing his ex-deputy Riek Machar.
Kenya talks come a day after South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit met the Kenyan president and Ethiopian PM in Juba
The fighting has forced more than 100,000 to flee their homes, with about 60,000 seeking refuge at UN compounds across the country, UN officials say.
East African regional leaders from the eight-member bloc, known as IGAD, are meeting in Kenya’s capital Nairobi to follow up on issues raised during Thursday’s talks with President Salva Kiir in South Sudan’s capital Juba.
Salva Kiir met Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ethiopian PM Hailemariam Desalegn. The talks were described by Ethiopia as “very constructive and very candid”.
New evidence is emerging of alleged ethnic killings committed during more than a week of fighting in South Sudan.
The violence follows a power struggle between President Salva Kiir Mayardit, a Dinka, and his Nuer ex-deputy Riek Machar.
A reporter in the capital, Juba, quoted witnesses as saying more than 200 people, mostly from the Nuer ethnic group, were shot by security forces.
Another man in Juba said gunmen from the majority Dinka ethnic group were shooting people in Nuer areas.
The fighting first erupted in Juba last week and has spread throughout South Sudan, with rebels supporting Riek Machar seizing the major towns of Bor and Bentiu, north of the capital.
Bentiu is the capital of the oil-producing Unity State.
New evidence is emerging of alleged ethnic killings committed during more than a week of fighting in South Sudan
Salva Kiir has accused Riek Machar, who he sacked in July, of plotting a coup. Riek Machar denies he is trying to seize power, while the government has denied it is behind any ethnic violence.
The fear is that the personal rivalry between the former allies will spark a full-scale conflict between the Nuer and Dinka groups.
The official death toll stands at 500, but aid agencies say the true figure is likely to be much higher.
There has also been fighting in Upper Nile State but few details have emerged.
Another 81,000 people have been displaced, the UN’s humanitarian agency says, with about half seeking shelter at UN bases.
President Salva Kiir has said he is willing to hold talks with Riek Machar – and that a delegation of East African foreign ministers had offered to mediate – but that his former deputy would have to come to the table without any conditions.
Up to 500 people are believed to have died in clashes between rival South Sudan army factions, the UN says, quoting unconfirmed reports.
UN diplomats said they had been told by sources in the capital, Juba, that the death toll was between 400 and 500.
South Sudan has seen two days of clashes following a reported coup attempt against President Salva Kiir Mayardit.
Fugitive opposition leader Riek Machar has denied government accusations that he tried to seize power.
“What took place in Juba was a misunderstanding between presidential guards within their division, it was not a coup attempt,” he told the Sudan Tribune, a Paris-based news website, in an interview published on Wednesday.
Riek Machar, a former South-Sudanese vice-president who fell out with President Salva Kiir in July, said he had no knowledge of or connection with any coup attempt.
President Salva Kiir has said a group of soldiers supporting Riek Machar had tried to take power by force on Sunday night, but were defeated.
Amid continuing clashes on Monday and Tuesday, the government said 10 senior political figures, including a former finance minister, had been arrested.
Details of the fighting have been sketchy, but a meeting of the UN Security Council in New York on Tuesday was told that the clashes were “apparently largely along ethnic lines”.
Up to 500 people are believed to have died in clashes between rival South Sudan army factions
French UN ambassador Gerard Araud, who holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council, said up to 20,000 people had taken refuge in the UN mission in Juba.
He said the council had received only “patchy information” in a briefing given by UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous.
The governor of Unity State, Simon Kun Pouch, was quoted on the government website as saying that the conflict had nothing to do with tribes.
“There are people out there saying what has happened is between the Dinka and the Nuer tribesmen. We the leaders of this country would want to state here that this is not true,” he said.
“If you see the people going with Dr. Riek [Machar], some are Dinkas, some are Chol, Nuer and other tribes,” he added.
The US has ordered all its non-emergency embassy staff to leave the country immediately.
President Salva Kiir said the clashes began when uniformed personnel opened fire at a meeting of the governing party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).
Fighting then continued into Monday when the government said it was back in full control.
However, fresh gunfire erupted on Tuesday near the presidential palace and many other areas of Juba.
Government officials say they are hunting for Riek Machar, who is believed to be in hiding.
Riek Machar – who leads a dissident faction within the SPLM – was thought to have escaped with some troops.
On Tuesday, the government said former Finance Minister Kosti Manibe, former Justice Minister John Luk Jok and former Interior Minister Gier Chuang Aluong were among the 10 people arrested.
Many were members of the cabinet that was sacked in its entirety in July.
South Sudan has struggled to achieve a stable government since becoming independent from Sudan in 2011.
The independence referendum was intended to end a decade-long conflict, led by the SPLM, against the north.
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit has announced that an attempted coup by soldiers loyal to his former deputy Riek Machar has been put down.
Salva Kiir said the government was in full control of the capital, Juba, after a night of heavy fighting between soldiers in the presidential guard.
A night time curfew has been put in place and a number of arrests have reportedly been made.
Several people were reported injured and hundreds have fled to a US base.
Hilde Johnson, the UN’s special representative in South Sudan, said she was “deeply concerned” and urged “all parties in the fighting to cease hostilities immediately and exercise restraint”.
“I have been in touch regularly with the key leaders, including at the highest levels to call for calm,” she said.
The fighting in Juba broke out overnight, and intensified in the early morning, with reports of continuous gunfire and several explosions.
The city’s airport has been closed and the state TV channel SSTV went off air for several hours.
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit has announced that an attempted coup by soldiers loyal to his former deputy Riek Machar has been put down
Shortly after it came back on air, SSTV broadcast an address from Salva Kiir, wearing military uniform rather than his usual civilian clothing and flanked by government officials.
He said the violence “was an attempted coup”, but that the government was now in full control and the attackers were being chased down.
Salva Kiir said the fighting began when unidentified uniformed personnel opened fire at a meeting of SPLM, followed by an attack on army headquarters near the university carried out “by a group of soldiers allied to the former vice-president Dr. Riek Machar and his group”.
“I will not allow or tolerate such incidents once again in our new nation. I strongly condemn these criminal actions in the strongest terms possible,” the president said, vowing those responsible would be have to stand “before the appropriate law institution”.
The ruling party, former rebel force the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), would never allow power to be transferred by force, he said.
He announced a curfew would be in place every night between 18:00 and 06:00, beginning on Monday.
“Rest assured that the government is doing all it can to make sure that citizens are secured and safe.”
Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin told the Associated Press that some soldiers had tried to raid the weapons store at the main military based in the capital, but were repulsed.
He said some politician had since been arrested.
Riek Machar has not commented and his whereabouts are unclear. But his spokesman said he was safe and denied reports he had been arrested.
South Sudan – the world’s youngest country and one of the least developed – has struggled to achieve a stable government since becoming independent from Sudan in 2011. The independence referendum was intended to end a decades-long conflict, led by the SPLM, against the north.
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir says Sudan has “declared war” on his country, following weeks of fighting along their common border.
President Salva Kiir was speaking in China, which is a major buyer of oil from both countries, but has long been an ally of Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir.
Meanwhile, Sudanese warplanes conducted multiple bombing raids against Southern border regions in the early morning.
The raids followed a fatal bombing near the border town of Bentiu on Monday.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack, in which a market was bombed, killing at least one person and injuring many others.
The latest attacks hit the towns of Panakwatch and Lalop, and the Teshwin border post, the AFP news agency reported.
South Sudan became independent last year, following decades of conflict.
There have been tense relations since then, primarily over the division of oil reserves and the full definition of borders.
Salva Kiir was speaking as he met Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao in Beijing, after arriving there on Monday for a five-day visit.
South Sudanese president said his visit came “at a very critical moment for the Republic of South Sudan because our neighbor in Khartoum has declared war on the Republic of South Sudan”.
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir says Sudan has "declared war" on his country, following weeks of fighting along their common border
Salva Kiir called China one of his country’s “economic and strategic partners”.
Chinese state television quoted Hu Jintao as urging calm and restraint on both Sudans.
Sudan has made no formal declaration of war, but analysts say Salva Kiir is clearly escalating the war of words.
Beijing has urged an end to the recent hostilities, during which Southern forces occupied Sudan’s most important oil field, in the Heglig area, saying it belonged to the South.
South Sudan says its forces withdrew from Heglig after two weeks, but Sudan says it expelled them, killing 1,000 soldiers.
Omar al-Bashir says he will not negotiate with the South and has vowed to continue military action until all Southern troops and their allies are out of Sudan.
On Monday, Ban Ki-moon called on Omar al-Bashir and Salva Kiir “to stop the slide toward further confrontation and… to return to dialogue as a matter of urgency”.
US President Barack Obama has said both countries “must have the courage” to return to the negotiating table and resolve their differences peacefully.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said on Tuesday that oil was “the economic lifeline for both countries”.
Liu Weimin added: “To maintain the stability and sustainability of the oil cooperation is consistent with the fundamental interests of both countries. It is also consistent with the interests of Chinese enterprises and their partners.
“We hope the oil negotiation between Sudan and South Sudan will make progress and [the two countries] will find a solution that both of them and other sides involved can accept.”
In January, South Sudan shut down oil production, which provides 98% of its revenue, after Khartoum impounded South Sudanese oil shipments amid a dispute over transit fees.
South Sudan took most of the former united Sudan’s oil reserves when it became independent but relies on pipelines to seaports in Sudan to export it.
South Sudan voted overwhelmingly in favor of secession in a January 2011 referendum, leading to independence six months later.
George Clooney has been now released after being arrested for civil disobedience during a demonstration outside Sudan’s embassy in Washington DC on Friday.
George Clooney, 50, was taking part in a protest to warn of a humanitarian crisis in the volatile border area between Sudan and South Sudan.
The actor was detained alongside his father, Nick Clooney, but both have now been released after paying bail of $100.
George Clooney is a keen Sudan activist and has visited the area several times.
South Sudan celebrated its independence from Sudan in 2011, but relations between the two neighbors have worsened since then.
The country is one of the world’s poorest regions and has hardly any roads, railways, schools or clinics as a result of two decades of conflict leading up to independence from Sudan in July 2011.
Bitter disagreements remain over oil resources and borders, with conflict raging in the border region – the focus for George Clooney’s concern.
Speaking to reporters following his release, George Clooney said his key concern was the fate of those in the region.
George Clooney was detained alongside his father, Nick , but both have now been released after paying bail of $100
“Best estimate is tens of thousands of people are going to die from starvation… this isn’t a famine, this is a man-made tragedy by the government of Khartoum to get these people to leave.”
“You never know if you are accomplishing anything… We hope it helps,” George Clooney said.
The actor said the arrest was his first, but added: “Let’s hope it’s my last.”
George Clooney, his father Nick and fellow activists had been led away in handcuffs after reportedly ignoring repeated police warnings to leave the embassy grounds.
He was released three hours later after paying the bail fee.
Secret Service spokesman George Oglivie explained how the arrest unfolded: “George Clooney was arrested for crossing a police line at the Sudan embassy and he’ll be transported to the Metropolitan police department second district.”
Also arrested, said George Oglivie, were Martin Luther King III, son of the civil rights leader; Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Jim McGovern; Virginia Democratic Congressman Jim Moran; and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Ben Jealous.