By William Madouk
South Sudan President Salva Kiir and Vladimir Putin of Russia, on Thursday held a meeting, committing to strengthen bilateral ties and trade relations.
Kiir left Juba on Wednesday for Moscow to meet Putin in a gesture to heighten bilateral ties.
“In their meeting this morning, President Kiir and Putin agreed to strengthen the existing relations between the two countries in areas of trade, investment, energy, and other sectors,” a statement from President’s office reads in part.
According to the office of the president, the two heads of state also discussed peace and security in Africa and international affairs.
President Kiir expressed his commitment to bolstering stronger ties between Juba and Moscow.
“President Kiir expressed his commitment to bolstering stronger ties with Russia through collaborations in different fields in a bid to achieve sustainable development,” added the statement.
The president’s office also reported that President Putin said Russia is ready to expand bilateral relations with South Sudan in areas of economy, development, trade, energy, and education.
Meanwhile, President Kiir also attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Soldiers by the Kremlin Wall and the monument in honor of the Cities of Military Glory.
In his virtual address during the 2023 BRICS Summit held in Johannesburg in August, the Russian President said Moscow intends to deepen ties with African countries and that it will remain a reliable partner for food and fuel supplies.
While departing on Wednesday, Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin, Minister of Presidential Affairs, said that Kiir would provide an explanation of the revitalized peace agreement implementation process and the upcoming 2024 elections.
Marial stated that talks between the two principals would also focus on lifting the arms embargo and targeting sanctions on individuals.
However, the office of the President did not state whether the two leaders also touched on the arms embargo and sanctions.
In recent months, President Kiir has been intensifying efforts for the lifting of the arms embargo.
In his recent trip to New York, Kiir met with several world leaders on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, including UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Kiir also met the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as the President of Malawi, Lazarus Chakwera.
He further held a separate meeting with the British Minister for International Development and Africa, Andrew Mitchell, where he discussed the progress made in the implementation of the revitalized agreement on the resolution of the conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS).
In his address to the 78th UN General Assembly, Kiir called for the lifting of the arms embargo, underscoring that the country has made significant progress, but a lack of arms could hamper security during the forthcoming elections in December 2024.
“As we move in this direction, we call upon the United Nations to lift the arms embargo imposed on us to aid peace implementation and secure the elections,” Kiir appealed to UNGA.
The president further argued that South Sudan’s inability to purchase arms hampers the deployment of the graduated unified forces.
On May 30, the UN Security Council renewed the arms embargo imposed on the country for a year as it monitored the progress the government would make towards meeting the benchmarks set for lifting the embargo.
The benchmarks include the completion of the Strategic Defense and Security Review process, the formation of a unified command structure for the necessary unified forces (NUF), and the implementation of the Joint Action Plan for the Armed Forces on addressing conflict-related sexual violence.
Prior to the renewal of the arms embargo, the UN Panel of Experts on South Sudan stated that there was no progress made on the establishment and implementation of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) or the proper management of existing arms and ammunition stockpiles.
This means that the country is not allowed to procure arms and ammunition, as well as armoured vehicles until the benchmarks are met.