Updated: 01/14/2014 02:46 | By Agence France-Presse

Japan, Ethiopia urge peace in South Sudan

The leaders of Japan and Ethiopia on Monday urged South Sudan's warring parties to sign a ceasefire to end weeks of fighting that has left thousands dead.

Japan, Ethiopia urge peace in South Sudan

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn look on during a press conference in Addis Ababa on January 13, 2014

"We agreed that the cessation of hostilities in South Sudan and national reconciliation is the most important way forward," Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, said at a joint briefing with his Japanese counterpart.

The comments came amid peace talks in Addis Ababa between rival South Sudanese parties aimed ending weeks of violence that has displaced over 200,000 people and brought the young country to the brink of civil war.

Ethiopia and Japan said they were committed to stability in South Sudan, which gained independence in 2011.

"I have confirmed with (Hailemariam) that Japan and Ethiopia will maintain close contact and exchange information for stability for the situation in South Sudan," Japanese leader Shinzo Abe said.

The Japanese leader said peace, security and aid in Africa were a priority for his government and promised $11 million  (8 million euros) to support refugees in Ethiopia.

Abe also announced $4.8 million (3.5 million euros) to develop Ethiopia’s agriculture sector and said his government was planning on investing in geothermal power production.

In addition, the countries launched the first direct flight between the two countries as a means to boost political and economic ties.

"We have to double our efforts to bring our trade relations to the level possible between our two countries," Hailemariam said.

Abe reiterated his commitment to increasing Japan's role in Africa, home to several of the world’s fastest growing economies.

"The Abe administration is the administration that has placed the greatest emphasis on Japan's relationship with Africa," he said.

The two-day trip to Ethiopia is Abe's final stop on an Africa tour that has also taken him to Ivory Coast and Mozambique in a bid to boost Japanese ties and business relations in Africa, which has become a key trading partner with China.

He is expected to deliver his policy plan for the continent at the African Union Tuesday before departing for Oman.

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