US envoy presses for negotiations after South Sudan president's term is extended by 3 years

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JUBA, South Sudan — The U.S. envoy to South Sudan on Wednesday urged the country's warring factions to resume peace talks the day after lawmakers voted to extend President Salva Kiir's term by three years.

The way to peace "is through negotiations" between the warring factions, Donald Booth told a news conference in the South Sudanese capital, Juba.

"There need to be compromises in order to get to peace. We can do what we can to help the parties to the conflict find a way out of this conflict. But the compromises need to be South Sudanese compromises," he said.

He said the best way to extend the government's constitutional legitimacy beyond July 9 — when Kiir's term was set to expire before the extension — "is through a peace agreement that would establish a transitional government of national unity."

South Sudan has been at war since December 2013 as government forces try to put down a rebellion led by Kiir's former deputy, Riek Machar.

The international community has been urging a political solution, but Kiir and Machar have failed to agree on issues such as how to share power in the event of a unity government.

On Tuesday, a U.N. Security Council statement expressed "profound disappointment" with the failure of Kiir and Machar to finalize a peace deal. The statement also repeated the council's intent to impose measures such as an arms embargo or sanctions against "senior individuals" who threaten the country's peace.

Booth on Wednesday tried to allay concerns among some here that the U.N. sanctions would affect mostly ordinary South Sudanese, not the country's warring leaders.

"I stress that the sanctions are focused on individuals," he said. "And it will be individuals who are obstructing peace. The (U.N. Security) Council did not foresee sanctions against South Sudan as a country, did not foresee sanctions against the South Sudanese people. So I think those who are saying that because a few individuals may face sanctions that this will affect all South Sudanese, this frankly is a scare tactic."

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