Members of the United Nations Security Council expressed exasperation and disappointment in South Sudan's leaders Wednesday, as they wrapped up a two-day visit aimed at pressuring the warring sides to stop fighting.
"Cessation of hostilities have been agreed to, pieces of paper have been signed, but, you know better than I do that the fighting continues, violations of the cessation of hostilities happen every day, people are still dying," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power told reporters.
"It was bad enough when people were dying in conflict -- that should have been enough for the leadership here to put their differences aside and find a way through what amounts to a man-made and political crisis," Power said.
"But now when you throw in the prospect of a looming famine, it becomes all the more urgent and imperative that these leaders find a way to compromise, find a way to put together a transitional authority and help the beginning of what would be a long process of reconciliation for this country," she said.
Malnourished children receive treatment at the Leer Hospital, South Sudan, on July 7, 2014.
Power led the 31-member Security Council delegation that met with President Salva Kiir and his cabinet and spoke with opposition leader Riek Machar by video-conference during their visit.
'Rather disappointing' meetings
Security Council President Mark Lyall Grant said the meetings with the two leaders had been "rather disappointing."
"We have had engagements with President Kiir and with Riek Machar but we did not hear much from them that gave us hope that there would be rapid agreement in the talks in Addis Ababa," he said.
The Security Council delegation tried to impress on the warring sides that if they do not move quickly to end more than eight months of conflict and set up a transitional government, the U.N. could impose targeted sanctions on them. These would come on top of sanctions already imposed by the United States and European Union.
The delegation insisted that there is no military solution in South Sudan, but was not sure that the message has been taken oin.
"We hear very worrying reports of more arms being brought into this country in order to set the stage for another battle when the dry season commences," Power said.
Lyall Grant said Mr. Kiir and Machar "both said they recognized there was no military solution to the crisis, but the two positions remain far apart."
Failure of leadership
Lyall Grant blamed a "failure of leadership" in South Sudan for the country's crisis.
He said the Security Council is "annoyed and angry at what has happened" and stressed that "there would be consequences for those who try to undermine the peace process and are not willing to put aside their personal agendas in the interest of their people."
Lyall Grant said the Security Council is prepared to impose targeted sanctions on anyone who "undermines the peace, stability and security of South Sudan."
Rwanda's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Eugene-Richard Gasana, warned South Sudan that "the international community will not look on as this seemingly endless situation goes on.”
The visit was the first by a U.N. Security Council delegation to South Sudan.
Karin Zeitvogel contributed to this story from Washington, D.C.