Norway welcomes return of opposition to South Sudan

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Today, representatives of the opposition returned to the South Sudanese capital, Juba, for the first time since the conflict in South Sudan broke out in December 2013. 'This is a long-awaited and important step on the path to peace in South Sudan,' said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende.

In August, the Government and the opposition in South Sudan signed a peace agreement that aimed to bring an end to nearly two years of conflict. Both parties declared a ceasefire immediately after the signing. Despite this, hostilities have continued. Together with the US, Norway has played an active role in securing the return of the opposition.

'The return of the opposition to Juba could be a turning point for South Sudan. Work can now begin on establishing a transitional government of national unity. We are hopefully one step closer to ending this tragic conflict,' Mr Brende said.

As a result of the two-year conflict, 4.6 million people are affected by an acute humanitarian crisis, according to the UN. Some 2.3 million people have been forced to flee their homes.

'The return of the opposition shows that both parties in South Sudan now have the necessary commitment and determination to work towards securing peace. I expect the parties to maintain this level of commitment in the time ahead, as they carry out the challenging task of implementing the peace agreement. The parties alone are responsible for ensuring that the agreement is upheld. Norway, together with its Troika partners, stands ready to support this process, with the aim of bringing peace to the country as soon as possible,' Mr Brende said.

Norway has been a key supporter of the Igad-led peace process, and has worked actively with the US to facilitate the return of the opposition, both on a practical and political level.