South Sudan's warring parties agreed Friday to delay by six months the formation of a power-sharing government just days before it was due to be installed.
"The Parties unanimously agreed to extend the Pre-Transitional period by an additional six months effective from 12th May 2019 to enable the execution of the critical pending tasks," said the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a regional bloc for East Africa that called a meeting between the rival parties.
The agreement came at the close of two days of talks in Addis Ababa where South Sudan's rival factions had convened to try and salvage a peace deal signed in September 2018.
That agreement inked by representatives of President Salva Kiir, rebel leader Riek Machar and a handful of other groups was the latest in a string of efforts to end a devastating conflict now in its sixth year.
But the parties have failed to resolve several crunch issues before a power-sharing government is to be installed on May 12.
Government has insisted the meeting focus on how to push forward with the formation of the unity government.
Machar's camp, though, wants a six-month delay to resolve security and other issues that, it says, prevent him from making his return.
Machar is living in exile in Khartoum, having been hounded out of Juba in a hail of gunfire in 2016 when a prior deal collapsed.
He is supposed to return as first vice president under the new deal.
IGAD said the parties had "identified lack of political will, financing and time constraints as the major challenges that have delayed implementation" of the unity government.
Observers say that crucial steps envisioned in the deal such as establishing a unified army and discussing security control of the capital have yet to take place. South Sudan's war broke out two years after independence in 2011, after Kiir accused his Machar, his former vice president, of plotting a coup against him.
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