Direct talks between South Sudan's president and the country's rebel chief have failed to strike a peace deal, mediators said Friday, but added that discussions would continue over the weekend.
President Salva Kiir and ousted vice president Riek Machar have held two days of meetings in Addis Ababa, with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalgen and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta leading the latest push for an end to the nearly 11-month-old civil war.
East African leaders have grown increasingly impatient with the warring sides, their slow-moving talks and repeated violations of several prior ceasefire deals, and have told them to "come to their senses".
On Friday, however, a statement from the Kenyan presidency said "a deal did not appear imminent" and that talks were set to drag on into a third day on Saturday.
"My understanding is that the leaders are determined to make progress as they see this as a pivotal stage in the negotiations," said Kenyatta's spokesman Manoah Esipisu. "But it is, as expected, a difficult process."
According to a mediator from the east African bloc IGAD, the two South Sudanese leaders were told that "the credibility of IGAD is now at a low point".
Unless a deal is reached quickly, the bloc made up of eight member states "will take action", the mediator added.
The UN Security Council also warned this week of possible sanctions over the fighting, which has left tens of thousands dead and forced almost two million from their homes.
Diplomats trying to broker a peace deal appear to be jaded by the process, and on Thursday the Ethiopian prime minister complained that there "appears to be little appetite for peace".
"That the patience of the international community is wearing thin is hopefully not lost on both sides," Hailemariam said.
War broke out in December last year, when Kiir accused his sacked deputy Machar of trying to stage a coup, with the violence broadening into an ethnic conflict and now including more than 20 different armed groups.
Kiir and Machar met last month in Tanzania, shaking hands and accepting mutual responsibility for the war, which has been marked by widespread human rights abuses and atrocities by both sides.
It was their first meeting since they signed a ceasefire in August, which, like three previous agreements, swiftly collapsed.
Recent weeks have seen an upsurge in fighting coinciding with the end of the rainy season, and there have been heavy clashes in several areas -- in particular around the northern oil hub of Bentiu.