An African official who is working to organize peace talks between warring parties in South Sudan says that direct talks between the sides have been delayed.

Mahboub M. Maalim, the executive secretary of an East African bloc of states known as IGAD, said Saturday the talks have been delayed in part because no agenda has yet been set. Officials had hoped direct peace talks would begin Saturday after preliminary talks were held on Friday.

Violence has spiraled across South Sudan since Dec. 15. President Salva Kiir accuses the former vice president, Riek Machar, of an attempted coup. Machar denies the accusation, but forces loyal to him now control two state capitals, including the town of Bor, about 120 kilometers (70 miles) north of the country capital, Juba.