China urges South Sudan ceasefire

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi says Beijing is deeply concerned by the unrest in South Sudan.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi says Beijing is deeply concerned by the unrest in South Sudan.

ADDIS ABABA - China, the biggest investor in South Sudan's oil industry, called on Monday for an immediate ceasefire in the world's newest state, as rebel and government negotiators haggled over the scope of peace talks meant to end three weeks of fighting.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Beijing was deeply concerned by the unrest in South Sudan, which has killed more than 1,000 people and forced the government to cut oil production by about a fifth.

Sudan, which also has an economic interest in its southern neighbour's oil output, said the Juba government discussed the deployment of a joint force to secure its oilfields during a visit by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

"China's position with regard to the current situation in South Sudan is very clear," Wang told reporters in Addis Ababa, where the peace talks are taking place. "First, we call for an immediate cessation of hostilities and violence."

An Ethiopian delegate said Wang had met both rebel and government delegations.

Three weeks of fighting, which began in the capital but spread beyond, often along ethnic faultlines, have pitted President Salva Kiir's SPLA government forces against rebels loyal to former vice president Riek Machar.

The peace talks opened formally on Saturday in Ethiopia but delegates have yet to sit down for face-to-face negotiations.

The fighting is the worst in South Sudan since it won independence from Sudan in 2011 in a peace deal that ended one of Africa's longest civil wars.

Meanwhile, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on 30 December said that east African countries would have to "defeat" Machar if he rejected a ceasefire.