South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and rebel commander Riek Machar agreed to a ceasefire deal on Friday, a regional mediator said, after coming under growing international pressure to end ethnic fighting that has raised fears of genocide.
Friday's deal — which would be signed within 24 hours, it was said — was struck by the two men at a meeting in Ethiopia. It represented the first time the pair had met face-to-face since violence erupted in mid-December following a long power struggle. Kiir and Machar shook hands and prayed together, according to reports of the meeting.
The men also agreed that a transitional government offered the "best chance" to take the country towards elections next year, though there was no immediate decision on who would be part of an interim administration.
The agreement comes on the heels of two reports that catalogued "gross human rights abuses" that included mass graves, child rapes and grotesque mutilations of civilians. Amnesty International published a report containing scores of testimonies of "war crimes" in the world's youngest nation.
The United Nations said its peacekeeping body in the country had found "reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed during the conflict by both government and opposition forces."
South Sudan has been plagued by unrest since its inception. Since the breakout of widespread violence last year, at least 10,000 people have been killed and an estimated 1 million displaced.
Al Jazeera and wire services