UNITED NATIONS, UN peacekeeping chief, cautioned that, the new peace deal in South Sudan remains fragile.

“There can be no viable or sustainable peace, unless the parties adhere to a permanent cease-fire, silence the guns, disengage forces, and include women as key players,” said Jean-Pierre Lacroix, UN under-secretary-general for peacekeeping operations.

He was briefing the Security Council, on a joint African Union/United Nations high-level visit to South Sudan on Oct 7-9, shortly after the signing of the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan.

The signing of the agreement is only the first step in a process that still has many challenges ahead, he said. “The pre-transitional period is critical and will require the South Sudanese leaders to assume their responsibilities and pave the way for the full implementation of the agreement.”

Since the Oct visit, the Transitional National Legislature ratified the new peace agreement, paving the way for its incorporation into the Transitional Constitution.

On Oct 21, the National Pre-Transitional Committee held its first meeting, to begin coordinating activities for the pre-transitional period.

The participation of Riek Machar and other opposition leaders, in the Oct 31 peace celebrations in Juba, President Salva Kiir’s apology to the people of South Sudan, for the immense suffering exacted by the conflict, and the release of political prisoners, including two high-profile opposition political detainees, are all positive gestures towards confidence-building and reconciliation, said Lacroix.

During the peace celebrations, President Kiir and Machar had a face-to-face meeting, which served as a confidence-building event in itself, he said.

However, he said, there are still continued reports of fighting between government troops and opposition forces, and between Machar’s SPLA-IO and various breakaway factions of the opposition groups in Central Equatoria.

These incidents, together with continuing inter-communal violence in certain parts of the country, continue to take a toll on civilians and exacerbate displacement and humanitarian needs, he said.

Reports of recruitment, including children, by the parties in several parts of the country, also betray confidence in the parties to implement the agreement in full, said Lacroix.

“Consolidating this hard-won peace will be our foremost challenge in the weeks and months ahead, and time will be our greatest enemy. We are all too familiar with the consequences of delayed implementation timelines or realisation of peace dividends to the people of South Sudan who have suffered for far too long,” said Lacroix.

The United Nations stands ready as a continued partner of peace in supporting South Sudan. Its peacekeeping mission in South Sudan will continue to support, perform tasks within the bounds of its mandate.