South Sudan government, rebels sign ceasefire agreement

South Sudan’s government and rebels have reached a ceasefire agreement designed to stop the fighting for at least five weeks.

Thousands have been killed in South Sudan amid the fighting, which began last month between the government of President Salva Kiir and rebels backing former Vice President Riek Machar.

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The Associated Press reports that a cessation of hostilities agreement was signed Thursday in Ethiopia, the first sign of progress following weeks of negotiations.

A technical team was set up to follow the implementation of the ceasefire, according to the AP.

The State Department said it welcomed the agreement.

“This agreement is a critical first step toward building a lasting peace in South Sudan, but it is only the beginning of a much longer process to resolve the underlying causes of the conflict, to foster reconciliation, and to hold accountable those who committed horrific abuses against the South Sudanese people,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement.

The U.S. evacuated its diplomatic personnel from South Sudan as the violence escalated last month.

During one of the evacuations from Bor, four U.S. troops were injured when their three V-22 Ospreys came under fire. 

— This story was updated at 4:13 p.m.