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South Sudan peace talks to open in Ethiopia

  • A displaced woman and baby who fled the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile, sit by a fire as they cook food in the evening in the town of Awerial, South Sudan Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. The international Red Cross said Wednesday that the road from Bor to the nearby Awerial area "is lined with thousands of people" waiting for boats so they could cross the Nile River and that the gathering of displaced is "is the largest single identified concentration of displaced people in the country so far". (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

    A displaced woman and baby who fled the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile, sit by a fire as they cook food in the evening in the town of Awerial, South Sudan Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. The international Red Cross said Wednesday that the road from Bor to the nearby Awerial area "is lined with thousands of people" waiting for boats so they could cross the Nile River and that the gathering of displaced is "is the largest single identified concentration of displaced people in the country so far". (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

  • Displaced people who fled the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile, bathe and gather water from the Nile in the town of Awerial, South Sudan Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. The international Red Cross said Wednesday that the road from Bor to the nearby Awerial area "is lined with thousands of people" waiting for boats so they could cross the Nile River and that the gathering of displaced is "is the largest single identified concentration of displaced people in the country so far". (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

    Displaced people who fled the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile, bathe and gather water from the Nile in the town of Awerial, South Sudan Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. The international Red Cross said Wednesday that the road from Bor to the nearby Awerial area "is lined with thousands of people" waiting for boats so they could cross the Nile River and that the gathering of displaced is "is the largest single identified concentration of displaced people in the country so far". (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

  • Displaced people who fled the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile, prepare to sleep in the open at night in the town of Awerial, South Sudan Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. The international Red Cross said Wednesday that the road from Bor to the nearby Awerial area "is lined with thousands of people" waiting for boats so they could cross the Nile River and that the gathering of displaced is "is the largest single identified concentration of displaced people in the country so far". (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

    Displaced people who fled the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile, prepare to sleep in the open at night in the town of Awerial, South Sudan Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. The international Red Cross said Wednesday that the road from Bor to the nearby Awerial area "is lined with thousands of people" waiting for boats so they could cross the Nile River and that the gathering of displaced is "is the largest single identified concentration of displaced people in the country so far". (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

  • Displaced boys who fled the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile, sit around a fire at dusk as they prepare to sleep in the open at night in the town of Awerial, South Sudan Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. The international Red Cross said Wednesday that the road from Bor to the nearby Awerial area "is lined with thousands of people" waiting for boats so they could cross the Nile River and that the gathering of displaced is "is the largest single identified concentration of displaced people in the country so far". (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

    Displaced boys who fled the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile, sit around a fire at dusk as they prepare to sleep in the open at night in the town of Awerial, South Sudan Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. The international Red Cross said Wednesday that the road from Bor to the nearby Awerial area "is lined with thousands of people" waiting for boats so they could cross the Nile River and that the gathering of displaced is "is the largest single identified concentration of displaced people in the country so far". (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

  • A displaced woman who fled the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile, carries a bowl of water on her head in the town of Awerial, South Sudan Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. The international Red Cross said Wednesday that the road from Bor to the nearby Awerial area "is lined with thousands of people" waiting for boats so they could cross the Nile River and that the gathering of displaced is "is the largest single identified concentration of displaced people in the country so far". (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

    A displaced woman who fled the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile, carries a bowl of water on her head in the town of Awerial, South Sudan Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. The international Red Cross said Wednesday that the road from Bor to the nearby Awerial area "is lined with thousands of people" waiting for boats so they could cross the Nile River and that the gathering of displaced is "is the largest single identified concentration of displaced people in the country so far". (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

  • A displaced woman who fled the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile, gathers water from the Nile next to the boats she crossed with in the town of Awerial, South Sudan Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. The international Red Cross said Wednesday that the road from Bor to the nearby Awerial area "is lined with thousands of people" waiting for boats so they could cross the Nile River and that the gathering of displaced is "is the largest single identified concentration of displaced people in the country so far". (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

    A displaced woman who fled the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile, gathers water from the Nile next to the boats she crossed with in the town of Awerial, South Sudan Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. The international Red Cross said Wednesday that the road from Bor to the nearby Awerial area "is lined with thousands of people" waiting for boats so they could cross the Nile River and that the gathering of displaced is "is the largest single identified concentration of displaced people in the country so far". (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

  • Displaced people who fled the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile, bathe, wash clothes and gather water from the Nile in the town of Awerial, South Sudan Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. The international Red Cross said Wednesday that the road from Bor to the nearby Awerial area "is lined with thousands of people" waiting for boats so they could cross the Nile River and that the gathering of displaced is "is the largest single identified concentration of displaced people in the country so far". (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

    Displaced people who fled the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile, bathe, wash clothes and gather water from the Nile in the town of Awerial, South Sudan Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. The international Red Cross said Wednesday that the road from Bor to the nearby Awerial area "is lined with thousands of people" waiting for boats so they could cross the Nile River and that the gathering of displaced is "is the largest single identified concentration of displaced people in the country so far". (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

  • A young displaced girl carries a bucket of water back to her makeshift shelter at a United Nations compound which has become home to thousands of people displaced by the recent fighting, in the Jebel area on the outskirts of Juba, South Sudan Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013. Anti-government rebels took control of nearly all of the strategic city of Bor on Tuesday even as officials announced that representatives from the government and the rebels had agreed to hold talks for the first time. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

    A young displaced girl carries a bucket of water back to her makeshift shelter at a United Nations compound which has become home to thousands of people displaced by the recent fighting, in the Jebel area on the outskirts of Juba, South Sudan Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013. Anti-government rebels took control of nearly all of the strategic city of Bor on Tuesday even as officials announced that representatives from the government and the rebels had agreed to hold talks for the first time. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

  • Displaced boys who fled the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile, play after bathing in the Nile in the town of Awerial, South Sudan Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. The international Red Cross said Wednesday that the road from Bor to the nearby Awerial area "is lined with thousands of people" waiting for boats so they could cross the Nile River and that the gathering of displaced is "is the largest single identified concentration of displaced people in the country so far". (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

    Displaced boys who fled the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile, play after bathing in the Nile in the town of Awerial, South Sudan Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. The international Red Cross said Wednesday that the road from Bor to the nearby Awerial area "is lined with thousands of people" waiting for boats so they could cross the Nile River and that the gathering of displaced is "is the largest single identified concentration of displaced people in the country so far". (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

  • An armed man, left, walks as displaced people who fled the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile, prepare to sleep in the open at night in the town of Awerial, South Sudan Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. The international Red Cross said Wednesday that the road from Bor to the nearby Awerial area "is lined with thousands of people" waiting for boats so they could cross the Nile River and that the gathering of displaced is "is the largest single identified concentration of displaced people in the country so far". (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

    An armed man, left, walks as displaced people who fled the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile, prepare to sleep in the open at night in the town of Awerial, South Sudan Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. The international Red Cross said Wednesday that the road from Bor to the nearby Awerial area "is lined with thousands of people" waiting for boats so they could cross the Nile River and that the gathering of displaced is "is the largest single identified concentration of displaced people in the country so far". (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

  • A displaced woman and baby who fled the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile, sit by a fire as they cook food in the evening in the town of Awerial, South Sudan Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. The international Red Cross said Wednesday that the road from Bor to the nearby Awerial area "is lined with thousands of people" waiting for boats so they could cross the Nile River and that the gathering of displaced is "is the largest single identified concentration of displaced people in the country so far". (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
  • Displaced people who fled the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile, bathe and gather water from the Nile in the town of Awerial, South Sudan Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. The international Red Cross said Wednesday that the road from Bor to the nearby Awerial area "is lined with thousands of people" waiting for boats so they could cross the Nile River and that the gathering of displaced is "is the largest single identified concentration of displaced people in the country so far". (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
  • Displaced people who fled the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile, prepare to sleep in the open at night in the town of Awerial, South Sudan Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. The international Red Cross said Wednesday that the road from Bor to the nearby Awerial area "is lined with thousands of people" waiting for boats so they could cross the Nile River and that the gathering of displaced is "is the largest single identified concentration of displaced people in the country so far". (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
  • Displaced boys who fled the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile, sit around a fire at dusk as they prepare to sleep in the open at night in the town of Awerial, South Sudan Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. The international Red Cross said Wednesday that the road from Bor to the nearby Awerial area "is lined with thousands of people" waiting for boats so they could cross the Nile River and that the gathering of displaced is "is the largest single identified concentration of displaced people in the country so far". (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
  • A displaced woman who fled the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile, carries a bowl of water on her head in the town of Awerial, South Sudan Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. The international Red Cross said Wednesday that the road from Bor to the nearby Awerial area "is lined with thousands of people" waiting for boats so they could cross the Nile River and that the gathering of displaced is "is the largest single identified concentration of displaced people in the country so far". (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
  • A displaced woman who fled the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile, gathers water from the Nile next to the boats she crossed with in the town of Awerial, South Sudan Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. The international Red Cross said Wednesday that the road from Bor to the nearby Awerial area "is lined with thousands of people" waiting for boats so they could cross the Nile River and that the gathering of displaced is "is the largest single identified concentration of displaced people in the country so far". (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
  • Displaced people who fled the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile, bathe, wash clothes and gather water from the Nile in the town of Awerial, South Sudan Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. The international Red Cross said Wednesday that the road from Bor to the nearby Awerial area "is lined with thousands of people" waiting for boats so they could cross the Nile River and that the gathering of displaced is "is the largest single identified concentration of displaced people in the country so far". (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
  • A young displaced girl carries a bucket of water back to her makeshift shelter at a United Nations compound which has become home to thousands of people displaced by the recent fighting, in the Jebel area on the outskirts of Juba, South Sudan Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013. Anti-government rebels took control of nearly all of the strategic city of Bor on Tuesday even as officials announced that representatives from the government and the rebels had agreed to hold talks for the first time. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
  • Displaced boys who fled the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile, play after bathing in the Nile in the town of Awerial, South Sudan Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. The international Red Cross said Wednesday that the road from Bor to the nearby Awerial area "is lined with thousands of people" waiting for boats so they could cross the Nile River and that the gathering of displaced is "is the largest single identified concentration of displaced people in the country so far". (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
  • An armed man, left, walks as displaced people who fled the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile, prepare to sleep in the open at night in the town of Awerial, South Sudan Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. The international Red Cross said Wednesday that the road from Bor to the nearby Awerial area "is lined with thousands of people" waiting for boats so they could cross the Nile River and that the gathering of displaced is "is the largest single identified concentration of displaced people in the country so far". (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Negotiators from South Sudan’s two warring sides arrived yesterday in Ethiopia for peace talks, and a U.N. official urged both forces to bring the world’s newest country “back from the brink.”

Fighting continued in Bor, a gateway city to the capital of Juba, a government official said. Bor is just 75 miles from Juba.

Bor, the capital of Jonglei state, is the center of ethnically based violence stemming from the political rivalry between President Salva Kiir and ousted vice president Riek Machar, the rebel leader accused of mounting a failed coup attempt.

Kiir declared a state of emergency yesterday in Jonglei and Unity, two states where rebel forces have gained the upper hand in recent fighting.

Machar said Tuesday he would send his forces from Bor to Juba, but that threat was played down by Hilde Johnson, the U.N. representative in South Sudan.

“I think we need to take quotations with pinches of salt at this point of time,” Johnson said.

“On Jan. 1, the country is at a fork in the road, but it can still be saved from further major escalation of violence,” she said.

Johnson urged Kiir and Machar to use the new talks to move toward peace, adding: “They can still pull the country back from the brink.”

The fighting has killed more than 1,000 people, the U.N. said.

Pro-Machar forces in Bor appear to be taking defensive positions, Johnson said. The fighting in Bor has displaced about 60,000 people, making it the latest humanitarian crisis in South Sudan. The international Red Cross said the road from Bor to the nearby Awerial area was lined with people waiting for boats so they could cross the Nile River.

“There are tens of thousands of people here who literally picked up their kids and a few belongings and fled to the first safe place they could get to, which is Awerial,” said David Nash, head of mission for Doctors Without Borders. “They are camped out under trees with no sanitation and no safe drinking water.”

Two teams of five negotiators each arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and were expected to begin talks later yesterday, said Getachew Reda, a spokesman for Ethiopia’s prime minister.

The U.N. is “gravely concerned” about mounting evidence of gross violations of international human rights law, including the extra-judicial killings of civilians and captured soldiers, it said Tuesday. The U.N.’s estimate of 1,000 dead was given days ago and the number of fatalities is believed to be higher as a result of the new fighting across the country, including in Bor.

South Sudan Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin labeled Bor a war zone.

Government troops pulled out of parts of Bor because they were concerned about having to kill the “young boys” who fill the rebel ranks, one analyst said.

South Sudan’s military “was told to withdraw,” said Edmund Yakani, the executive director of the Juba-based group Community Empowerment for Progress, citing the accounts of contacts in Bor. “They communicated that these are young boys and we are killing them like nothing.”

Government troops in Bor face renegade forces allied with a pro-Machar tribal militia known as the “White Army” because its young members of the Nuer tribe smear their faces with ash to keep insects away.

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