Associated Press in Juba
Kerry said a ceasefire would probably lead to a transitional government in South Sudan. He declined to comment on whether Kiir or Macher could have a role in the country’s future leadership.
The peace talks could mark a turning point in nearly six months of horrific fighting largely along ethnic lines between Dinka and Nuer tribes. It began after Kiir, a Dinka, accused Machar, a Nuer, of plotting a coup to seize power last December. A ceasefire agreement reached in January was abandoned within days.
Thousands of people have been killed, nearly one million have fled their homes, and many farmers have had to abandon their crops, raising fears of a famine later in the year.
Kerry said that if Kiir and Macher failed to move strongly to curb the violence, or if other fighters continued to violate human rights and disrupt humanitarian aid, they would be held accountable. The consequences would range from economic sanctions to, potentially, prosecution by international courts.
African nations are willing to deploy between 2,500 and 5,500 troops initially for peacekeeping missions under the auspices of the United Nations. That would require a new UN mandate.
The US and UN have threatened to bring sanctions against militants on both sides of the fighting – including, potentially, Kiir and Machar. Western officials are trying to persuade the African Union to deploy thousands of troops to South Sudan to keep the peace.