South Sudanese President Salva Kiir has agreed to meet with his rival at the request of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
"The unspeakable human costs that we are seeing over the course of the last months, and which could even grow if they fail to sit down, are unacceptable to the global community," Kerry told reporters after his meeting with Kiir Friday.
Kerry said Kiir's rival, the former vice president-turned-rebel Riek Machar, has previously indicated he would engage in cease-fire discussions.
The peace talks are aimed at ending the civil war that has already killed thousands and threatens the future of the world's newest nation. Ethiopia's prime minister, Riek Machar, agreed to mediate the talks.
If the peace talks happen, they would mark a turning point in nearly six months of bloodshed.
The U.S. and U.N. have threatened to bring sanctions against militants on both sides of the fighting.