But it became clear that while South Sudan’s government was open to having the opposition in the vice president’s role it would not accept Machar’s return to that post. Machar fled the country after new fighting erupted in the capital, Juba, in July 2016, ending a brief attempt at peace in which he returned to his role as Kiir’s deputy.

Opposition spokesman Lam Paul Gabriel told The Associated Press “there was nothing agreed upon in the talks” but that the face-to-face meeting with South Sudan’s president was useful “because we are able to see violence in Salva’s eyes.”

Gabriel also accused the East African regional bloc of favoring South Sudan’s government and putting its own interests ahead of “genuine peace,” adding: “This is completely disappointing.”

The bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, has led several rounds of failed peace talks.

Makuei, the government spokesman, said Machar was welcome to visit South Sudan and wait for elections but “we don’t want to have another fight.”

South Sudan’s five-year civil war has continued despite multiple attempts at peace deals. Tens of thousands of people have died and millions have fled to create Africa’s largest refugee crisis since the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Millions of others still in the country are near famine, while the warring sides have been blamed for obstructing or slowing the delivery of desperately needed aid.

The latest attempt at a cease-fire in December was violated within hours. Both sides have been accused of widespread abuses such as gang rapes against civilians, including along ethnic lines. A number of South Sudan officials have been accused by human rights groups of profiting from the conflict and blocking the path to peace.

Regional bloc IGAD has threatened to submit “punitive measures” against violators of the latest failed cease-fire, though sanctions would need approval by the bloc’s heads of state and government.

Machar has been under house arrest in South Africa. It was not immediately clear where he would go now.

“We hope IGAD will mean business by coming out categorically on his freedom status,” said Gabriel, the opposition spokesman.