By Bernie Becker - 01/04/14 03:15 PM EST
South Sudanese peace talks are intensifying as the international community looks to tamp down fighting that has killed hundreds.
Tedros Adhanom, Ethiopia’s foreign minister, tweeted on Saturday that direct talks between the two sides had convened. But CNN, quoting an official from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, which is taking part in the talks, said that more serious meetings will start on Sunday morning.
“We wish all our best for the successful conclusion of the direct peace talks,” Adhanom tweeted.
CNN also reported that neither Kiir nor Riek Machar, the country’s former vice president who is supported by rebels, will attend the talks.
Fighting in South Sudan, which broke out several weeks ago, has killed more than 1,000, according to some estimates, and displaced tens of thousands more.
The fighting is between the country’s two main ethnic groups — the Dinka, of which Kiir is a member, and the Nuer, the community to which Machar belongs.
American officials have said that they are closely monitoring the situation in South Sudan, but have also been withdrawing embassy staff from the national capital of Juba.
President Obama is receiving daily updates on the fighting in South Sudan, The New York Times reported, and the U.S. ambassador to the country, Susan Page, remains in the country. The Obama administration also just announced close to $50 million in new humanitarian aid to South Sudan.