Obama 'welcomes' South Sudan cease-fire

President Obama said Thursday he “welcomes” the cease-fire agreement in South Sudan, a country he helped birth, and called on the government to release political prisoners.

President Salva Kiir and rebels backing former Vice President Riek Machar agreed to a cease-fire agreement on Thursday in an ethnic conflict that has killed thousands since last month. A major sticking point has been the release of 11 officials allied with Machar, and while Kiir has agreed to release them the agreement doesn't set a timeline for doing so.

“South Sudan’s leaders need to work to fully and immediately implement the agreement and start an inclusive political dialogue to resolve the underlying causes of the conflict,” Obama said. “The full participation of political detainees currently being held by the Government of South Sudan will be critical to those discussions, and we will continue to work to expedite their release.”

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Here's the full statement: 

I welcome today’s signing of a cessation of hostilities agreement in South Sudan, which is a critical first step toward building a lasting peace. Now, South Sudan’s leaders need to work to fully and immediately implement the agreement and start an inclusive political dialogue to resolve the underlying causes of the conflict. The full participation of political detainees currently being held by the Government of South Sudan will be critical to those discussions, and we will continue to work to expedite their release. I am grateful for the constructive role played by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development and our partners in the region to advance these efforts.

The United States has long supported the aspirations of the people of South Sudan for independence, peace, and prosperity. In order to regain the trust of their people and the international community, South Sudan’s leaders must demonstrate their sustained commitment to a peaceful resolution of the crisis. They have an obligation to ensure that the lives of their people and future of their young country are not further marred by continued violence, and that individuals who have committed atrocities are held to account. Those working for a more peaceful, democratic, unified South Sudan will continue to have a steady partner in the United States of America.

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