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UN Chief Concerned by South Sudan Truce Breaches

South Sudan's rebel leader Riek Machar (R) and South Sudan's President Salva Kiir (L) exchange signed peace agreement documents in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, May 9, 2014.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he is concerned about breaches to South Sudan’s cease-fire agreement signed Friday in the Ethiopian capital.

Ban told the U.N. Security Council Monday that President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar must work together to heal the country and end the violence that has killed thousands of civilians since December.

“If the conflict continues, half of South Sudan’s 12 million people will either be displaced internally, refugees abroad, starving or dead by the year’s end," said Ban.

The two South Sudanese leaders met Friday in Addis Ababa and signed a peace deal, but fighting has flared in recent days, with both sides accusing the other of breaking the truce.

The secretary-general told reporters that the onus is now on the two leaders to set aside their power struggle and accelerate momentum for peace.

“I asked the Security Council - they should continuously be engaged and render strong political messages, including taking necessary measures," he said.

“Necessary measures” is often diplomatic shorthand for sanctions.

Last week, Ban made an unannounced one-day visit to the capital, Juba. He met with President Kiir and then visited displaced civilians sheltering at a U.N. base where 20,000 people have sought protection from the fighting.

“I was appalled at the conditions they are having to endure, which are worse than in any of the many refugee camps I have visited around the world, including the refugee camps for the Syrian people," he said.

The U.N. mission has taken in 80,000 displaced persons seeking emergency protection at its bases across the country. Ban said the bases are not intended as camps, but that the U.N. is working to make them safer and more hygienic.

He said the government and opposition must cooperate to allow humanitarian aid to reach those in need, and he urged respect of a proposed “30 days of tranquility” to allow civilians to return home for the planting season, as fears grow about a possible famine.

The U.N. and Norway will co-host a donor’s conference for South Sudan on May 20 in Oslo.

Last week, the U.N. mission in South Sudan issued a report saying there are reasonable grounds to believe both sides have committed crimes against humanity during the conflict.