The United States has lost trust in South Sudan’s government for fuelling the country’s civil war and must bring peace or risk losing support from Washington, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the nation’s President Salva Kiir.
After meeting with President Kiir for some 45 minutes, Ms Haley said US was disappointed with Juba after investing $11 billion (nine billion euros) in the country under Kiir's leadership.
“I let him know that the United States was at a crossroads and that every decision going forward was going to be based on his actions,” Ms Haley told reporters after the meeting in the capital Juba.
Ms Haley, the first senior member of President Donald Trump’s administration to visit South Sudan, did not elaborate on what further action Washington could take, but said that Mr Kiir “got what I was trying to say.” On Monday she said Washington was considering how to pressure the South Sudan leader into peace, though noted that withdrawing aid may not work.
“We have lost trust in the government and we now need to regain that trust and the only way to regain that trust is through the actions of taking care of all of the people,” Ms Haley told South Sudan’s Eye Radio.
"But we are not going to give up on the South Sudanese people, we are here to fight for them, we are here to help, to do whatever we have to, to make peace and security become a permanent part of South Sudan," she added.
She demanded that President Kiir allow full and consistent humanitarian aid access and bring peace and stability to the country. She said she pushed a timeline for Mr Kiir to act, but declined to elaborate.
Nhial Deng Nihal, a senior adviser to Mr Kiir, said the president told Haley his government and a UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan had established “mechanisms that work jointly to improve and address the humanitarian problems.”
He also told reporters that Mr Kiir said government troops “will also be observing a cessation of hostilities in order to create an atmosphere for dialogue.”
The civil war was sparked by a feud between Mr Kiir, a Dinka, and his former deputy Riek Machar, a Nuer in 2013. It has plunged parts of the world’s youngest nation into famine and forced a third of the population - some 4 million people - to flee their homes.
South Sudan won independence in 2011 with strong support from the United States.
A fragile peace deal broke down last year and Mr Machar fled the country. He is being held in South Africa to stop him stirring up trouble.
Ms Haley said last month she wanted to salvage the tattered 2015 peace agreement that collapsed in last July, as regional mediators launch a fresh bid to "revitalise" the agreement.
Last week the regional Inter-governmental Authority on Development (Igad) said it had finished consultations with a wide range of parties and is expected to announce a new round of peace talks.
Brian Adeba of the Enough Project advocacy group that closely follows the South Sudan conflict, said that the new peace push came as government was particularly "intransigent to peace".
"It believes it has won the war, it has taken a lot of territory and the opposition is not in a position to retaliate," he said.
Ms Haley had to cut short a visit to a camp in Juba, where UN peacekeepers are protecting some 30,000 displaced people, after hundreds of rowdy pro-Machar protesters blocked nearby roads.
"The group was not protesting Ambassador Haley's visit, but rather South Sudanese President Salva Kiir," the US mission said.
"Diplomatic security agents determined that the site was no longer secure and escorted Ambassador Haley and her traveling party out of the site, cutting the event short by a few minutes," the mission added.
Ms Haley has travelled on to Kinshasa as part of a three-nation Africa tour.
She began her Africa tour in Ethiopia, which is leading the latest peace efforts in South Sudan, where the United Nations has deployed a 14,000-strong peacekeeping mission.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haley is expected to press President Joseph Kabila to agree to a timetable for elections.
-Reporting by Reuters and AFP