- Diplomats from central Africa, the United States and Japan are meeting for talks
- They are seeking a resolution to simmering unrest in the Central African Republic
- Rebels, angry with the government, have staged attacks in the past month
- The government has appealed for international help to stave off rebel advances
International diplomats are meeting Thursday in Gabon for talks aimed at resolving a brewing crisis in the Central African Republic, where rebels are threatening the capital.
The discussions in the Gabonese capital, Libreville, come a day after the United Nations called on the C.A.R. government and rebels to end violence and turn to dialogue.
Diplomats from the United States and Japan are expected to meet separately with Nassour Guelendouksia Ouaido, secretary general of the Economic Community of Central African States, a spokesman for the regional body said.
Josue Binoua, minister of territorial administration and decentralization for the C.A.R., told CNN that a meeting between C.A.R. President Francois Bozize and the rebel group, organized by the ECCAS, might also take place next week in Gabon, on Africa's western coast.
The ECCAS has taken a leading role in trying to stabilize the situation in the inland African nation, where simmering unrest has prompted international concern.
Rebels, angry with the government, have staged attacks in the past month, although they appear to have halted their advance this week toward the country's capital and largest city, Bangui.
The volatile situation spurred demonstrations last week in Bangui, with protesters urging foreign intervention to stop rebels from entering the city.
The United Nations is continuing to follow the situation in the country "with serious concern," U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said in a statement Wednesday.
"We are calling on both the government and the rebels to focus on dialogue that can avert violence and lead to a peaceful resolution and respect for the Libreville Comprehensive Peace Agreement," he said, referring to a 2008 treaty.
"We welcome regional efforts to seek a political solution and to reinforce security," Nesirky said.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's special representative Margaret Vogt is in close contact with key parties in the Central African Republic and the region, he added.
Nesirky said the United Nations was aware of reports coming from the region about possible negotiations between the government and rebels, but did not confirm they would take place.
The U.N. Security Council issued a statement last week calling on all parties to refrain from violence against civilians, respect human rights and seek a peaceful solution.
In a statement Wednesday, South Africa said it was also "gravely concerned" about tensions in the country.
"We demand that the armed groups immediately cease hostilities, withdraw from captured cities and cease any further advances towards the city of Bangui," said Clayson Monyela, a spokesman for the Department of International Relations and Cooperation.
South Africa wants all parties to work toward a negotiated solution and welcomes the commitment of Bozize to do so, he said.
Pretoria sent its defense minister to the Central African Republic on Monday to "assess the situation," the statement added.
The ongoing unrest has prompted the United Nations to relocate dependents and nonessential staff from the country and the U.S. Embassy in Bangui to shut down operations.
The U.S. State Department said last week that its ambassador and diplomatic team had left the capital, but that the United States was not cutting off diplomatic relations with the turbulent African nation.
Bozize last week asked for other nations' help in staving off rebel advances that threaten his rule.
Bozize specifically called on France -- which ruled his country, then as a colony known as Ubangi-Shari, until it gained independence in 1960 -- and the United States to help ensure "the rebels return home ... instead of destroying and killing Central Africans."