ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry is bringing his two main tools of diplomacy — peace talks and threatened sanctions — to Africa this week to help find a way to end months of killing that threatens to rip apart the world's newest nation, South Sudan.
It's not yet clear whether the U.S. will impose the sanctions while Kerry is in South Sudan — which, he said recently, he planned to visit during a week of stops that also include Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola. U.S. officials are still trying to persuade three of South Sudan's immediate neighbors to issue similar penalties against people on both sides of the brutal fighting.
A senior State Department official traveling with Kerry said the U.S. was still compiling its own list of individuals whose assets could be frozen and who could be banned from travel to the U.S. The official was not authorized to be identified by name while briefing reporters and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Kerry arrived in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa on Wednesday. He will meet with African Union leaders to discuss a range of security issues confronting the sub-Saharan region, including South Sudan. The U.S. wants the AU to deploy peacekeeping forces to South Sudan, but that was still being negotiated, the State Department official said.
South Sudan has been rocked by violence since December, when President Salva Kiir accused former Vice President Riek Machar of staging a coup. The violence is taking on an increasingly ethnic dimension between Kiir's Dinka community and Machar's Nuer community.
The State Department has not provided additional details of Kerry's visit to South Sudan and usually does not disclose travels to high-threat conflict zones ahead of time for security reasons.
The trip gives Kerry a chance to help shepherd peace in a new area of the world after his nine-month quest to end decades-long tensions between Israel and Palestinian authorities fell flat. Kerry had hoped to at least put the Mideast on a path to peace, but an April 29 deadline to keep talks going passed this week with both sides as far apart as ever.
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