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US, allies urge South Sudan to ensure genuine elections

FILE PHOTO: Russia's President Vladimir Putin and South Sudan's President Salva Kiir meet in Moscow

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States, Britain and Norway on Tuesday called on South Sudan's leaders to take urgent steps to ensure genuine and peaceful elections in December.

South Sudan has been formally at peace since a 2018 deal ended a five-year conflict responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths, but violence between rival communities flares frequently.

WHY IT IS IMPORTANT

The joint statement follows warnings from the United States that South Sudan is not on a path of free and fair elections to take place in December as planned unless action is taken.

South Sudan is planning to choose leaders to succeed the current transitional government, which includes President Salva Kiir and First Vice President Riek Machar, whose respective forces battled each other during the 2013-2018 civil war.

In 2022, Kiir said the transitional government would remain in power for another two years, delaying scheduled elections.

KEY QUOTES

"Following recent senior-level visits from our capitals to Juba, the Governments of Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States reaffirm our call for South Sudan’s leaders urgently to take steps necessary to ensure genuine and peaceful elections in December," the statement said, adding the process should address 10 questions posed by the United Nations, African Union and Intergovernmental Authority on Development.

"Not taking these critical steps and so not allowing elections would be a collective failure on the part of South Sudan’s leaders."

CONTEXT

A senior U.S. State Department official told Reuters this month that the elections will not be a credible process unless urgent action is taken.

On the likelihood the elections proceed in December as planned, the U.S. official said: "I give it 50/50."

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, warned that the U.S. would look to options including sanctions and adjusting its diplomatic platform in the country if elections were to be delayed or violence breaks out.

(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis; Editing by Nick Macfie)