By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
September 9, 2016 (ADDIS ABABA) – A high level South Sudan government delegation on Friday held talks with Ethiopian Prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, in the Ethiopian capital, Adddis Ababa, on a range of bilateral and regional issues of common concern.
The South Sudanese delegation led by Taban Deng Gai, the First Vice President of the Republic of South Sudan, arrived in the Ethiopia capital on Thursday.
Upon arrival, Gai accompanied by senior ministers was received at Bole International Airport by Ethiopia’s senior government officials, Haile Menkerios the head of United Nations Office to the African Union and South Sudan Ambassador to Ethiopia and AU, James Morgan, as well as.
According to Ethiopia government officials, the fragile implementation of peace agreement signed in August between the two rival SPLM factions was high on the discussions between Hailemariam, also IGAD chairperson and the South Sudan’s delegation.
Other areas of discussions between the two sides included cooperation on border Security, industry, opening trade corridors along shared border and construction of new roads linking the two neighbouring countries.
The two sides have agreed to establish a joint ministerial commission to implement the various cooperation plans.
Before the delegations departure late Thursday for Ethiopia, Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, South Sudan’s Petroleum Minister told reporters at Juba Airport that the high level delegation will discuss issues to do with trade, infrastructure development and regional security.
“Ethiopia is a strategic neighbour and we want to make sure that while we are implementing the agreement, we also make sure that trade between South Sudan and Ethiopia is booming” Gatkuoth said.
“We would like to make sure that the region is peaceful and all our neighbours are having good relations with us. So we will be normalizing relations with all the neighbours,” he added.
Here in Addis Ababa, the First Vice President and accompany delegation had conducted several meeting with leaders of SPLM/A- IO and various Communities living in Addis Ababa.
However an SPLM-IO official who requested anonymity said that Gai was trying to mobilize South Sudanese Nuers living in Ethiopia join the government.
Gai, was accompanied by senior ministers in the Transitional Government of National Unity that including Kuol Manyang Juuk, Minister of Defence and Veterans Affairs, Ambassador, Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, Minister of Petroleum, Rebecca Joshua Okwachi, Minister of
Roads and Bridges, Peter Beshir Gbande, Minister of Parliamentarian Affairs among other dignitaries.
In recent weeks, particularly since the recent clashes that forced the former First Vice President and armed opposition leader, Riek Machar, flee the country, President Kiir government is trying to advance cordial relations with Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan, three IGAD countries that are seen as supporting Machar’s reinstallation.
READY FOR DEPLOYMENT
Meanwhile, the Eastern Africa Standby Force (EASF), a regional rapid response force, said on Friday its troops are on standby and ready to deploy to South Sudan if the African Union (AU) gives the directive.
EASF Director Chanfi Issimail said the rapid-deployment force is well equipped and is ready for deployment to the war-torn youngest nation within two weeks.
However, he said the command must be confirmed and endorsed by the AU leaders ahead of deployment.
“EASF has a ready full operational capability force of 5,200 military, police and civilian personnel to fulfil its mandate of enhancing peace and security in the Eastern Africa region”.
EASF is one of the five regional components of the African Standby Force established by the African Union for the purpose of containing conflicts and enhancing peace and security on the continent.
The rapid deployment force draws its membership from ten member states from the Eastern Africa Region, namely Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Uganda, Somalia, Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Rwanda and Seychelles.