JUBA, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) -- Ongoing face-to-face meetings between South Sudan's rival armed groups with the army have boosted peace efforts by reducing tension and hostilities among the foes in the country's five-year-old conflict, top military officials said Wednesday.
For almost a month now, forces of the South Sudan People's Defense Forces (SSPDF) and the main rebel group, Sudan People's Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO) have been holding face-to-face dialogues across the country in an effort to forge unity and strengthen implementation of a new peace deal signed in September.
The talks facilitated by the internationally-backed peace monitoring group, the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM) are meant to build trust between the rival armed factions who previously broke several ceasefire deals.
Lul Ruai Koang, South Sudan military spokesperson said since the inception of the interactive dialogue process early last month, fighting has significantly reduced all over South Sudan.
"The confidence building has led to almost 99 percent in cessation of hostilities. We are moving from the atmosphere of fighting to being partners of peace," Koang told Xinhua in Juba.
"The confidence building has done a lot of good things. They (government forces) call us and we call them every morning. This kind of cooperation is very good," SPLA-IO deputy military spokesperson Lam Paul Gabriel spoke to Xinhua by phone.
South Sudan descended into civil war in late 2013, and the conflict has created one of the fastest growing refugee crises in the world.
A peace deal signed in August 2015 collapsed following renewed violence in Juba in July 2016.
Under the new peace deal signed in September this year, former vice president and opposition leader Riek Machar will once again be reinstated as President Salva Kiir's deputy.
In an effort to minimize further confrontation with other armed groups, Machar recently ordered his forces to gather at designated cantonment sites across the country and wait to be integrated into a joint military force agreed by the parties to the new power-sharing deal.
"This is a very good and bold step taken by our chairman, and we are going to comply with it," said Gabriel.
"The order will go a long way in enhancing implementation of transitional security arrangement and we applaud the decision by Riek to officially order his forces to report to cantonment sites," said Koang.
"We will make sure that we cooperate with them and we will give them passage to areas they want to go to," Koang added.
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