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UN Mulling Sanctions, Arms Embargo Against South Sudan

Australia's Ambassador to the United Nations Gary Quinlan is the president of the Security Council for the month of November, 2014.
Australia's Ambassador to the United Nations Gary Quinlan is the president of the Security Council for the month of November, 2014.

The United Nations Security Council will "look very closely" at imposing an arms embargo on South Sudan and sanctioning anyone who continues to block peace in the country, the head of the Security Council said this week.

"There's considerable interest among many Council members to look very closely at applying targeted sanctions and also, for many, an arms embargo, and that will be a subject of great interest in the next couple of weeks," said Australia's ambassador to the United Nations, Gary Quinlan. Quinlan is the current president of the Security Council.

The United States, the European Union and Canada have already imposed targeted sanctions on some military officials from both of the warring sides in South Sudan. Militia leader Peter Gadet has been sanctioned by all three. Gadet is accused of a massacre of civilians in the capital of Unity state, Bentiu, and of involvement in the downing of a U.N. helicopter in which three Russian crewmembers died.

Outraged at new fighting

Quinlan said in a statement that the Security Council is outraged at the recent resumption of hostilities between the SPLA and opposition forces in Unity state and along the Sobat River in Upper Nile state.

He faulted both sides in the nearly 11-month-old conflict for resuming the fighting, and said the UN is running out of patience with the warring sides.

"It's fair to say there's a growing sense of frustration among Council members about the ... seeming unwillingness, if you like, of the parties to abandon their commitment to their own military strategies for a military solution and engage meaningfully in the peace process," he said.

Civilians killed

Quinlan said civilians were killed and many were wounded during the latest clashes in South Sudan but he did not identify numbers.

He said the renewed fighting magnified an already serious humanitarian crisis, which has displaced more than 1.8 million South Sudanese.

"It's one of ... four, level-three crises in the world -- the highest level," he said, referring to a ranking scale used by the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Support for IGAD

The Security Council president reiterated the UN's backing for regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Developement (IGAD), which has been trying to broker peace in South Sudan for 10 months.

In his statement, which was released after his news briefing for President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar, he referred to a planned face-to-face meeting at this week's IGAD summit in Addis Ababa to reach agreement on the make-up of a transitional government.

Setting up a transitional government is seen as key to restoring peace in South Sudan. But the two sides differ on who should hold what post in the government and what powers should be conferred on any new posts that are created, such as prime minister.

Quinlan also condemned the detention of three staff members of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the abductions of two UN contractors. He pointed out that threats and attacks on UN personnel and facilities may constitute a violation of international law.

UNMISS's mandate is set to be renewed later this month.