South Sudan's President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar vowed, during their meeting in the capital Juba, on Wednesday September 11th to keep to a November deadline for creating a long-delayed power-sharing government, AFP reported.
During their second round of talks during Machar's first visit in a year from exile in Khartoum, the two men tried to maintain a peace agreement that has stalled on several key fronts.
"I told you earlier on that talks between us are going well. And we will reach a deal soon," Kiir said after the meeting, exchanging handshakes with Machar.
"The parties agreed to establish the government in time. When I said in time it means on 12th November," government spokesman Michael Makuei said after the meeting that the presidency described as "fruitful and open-hearted".
The two men agreed to hold further meetings soon.
A political deal between the historical rivals is the only way to move forward with the 2018 peace deal that has become stuck on key issues of security, and internal state boundaries, observers said.
Machar is asking for assurances about his personal security before permanently returning to Juba, which he fled under a hail of gunfire when a previous peace deal collapsed in July 2016.
In October 2018, he returned for less than a day to celebrate the signing of the peace deal. "Juba is home and I have come back to Juba, even if I go away (again) for some time... we have made important progress" in our discussions, Machar said.
The two men had also discussed efforts to mediate with rebel groups not party to the peace agreement, who have continued fighting in pockets of the country, Machar’s deputy Henry Odwar told journalists.
A ceasefire is generally considered to have held, outside of the Central Equatorial region, where these groups have been fighting, but the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Wednesday violence remained omnipresent.
There was a slight improvement in food security as a result of the peace deal, however "more than half the population of South Sudan, some 6.35 million people, do not know where their next meal will come from," according to The World Food Programme.