UN Security Council poised to act as deadline of South Sudan peace deal looms

UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 25 (Xinhua) — The UN Security Council is poised to act immediately if President Salva Kiir of South Sudan does not sign a peace agreement by Wednesday, Uche Joy Ogwu, the Council president told reporters here Tuesday.

“Council members…have stressed their readiness to act immediately if President Kiir does not sign the agreement tomorrow as he had undertaken (to do),” said Ogwu. She added that the 15-member council would be moved to act even if President Kiir signed with reservations.

Pressed on what immediate action might look like, Ogwu did not give any further clarification; however the council had earlier that morning been discussing the possibility of sanctions against South Sudan.

Responding to a question about the sanctions Ogwu commented only in her capacity as permanent representative of Nigeria to the UN: “in my national capacity we all believe that … an arms embargo would go a long way in alleviating the situation,” she said.

However, she also noted that there were already weapons inside South Sudan that need to be accounted for.

Cristian Barros of Chile, chair of the South Sudan sanctions committee, told members of the council on Tuesday that those weapons had been instrumental in prolonging the violence in South Sudan.

“The supply of arms and ammunition to all parties in the conflict had been instrumental in prolonging and escalating the war,” he said, citing the observations of an expert panel.

Barros also said that fighters on all sides of the conflict had been breaking humanitarian law by targeting civilians and that civilians had been killed, maimed, tortured and burned alive inside their homes.

He added that Aug. 17, 2015 — the date President Kiir had requested more time to sign the current proposed peace agreement — “was just the most recent of at least a dozen times since early 2014 that one or both parties had failed to adhere to an internationally sanctioned deadline for progress toward ending the war.”

Ellen Margrethe Loej, head of the UN Mission in South Sudan, briefed the council from Juba.

She said President Kiir had called a mini summit to take place on Wednesday “where the government of the Republic of South Sudan — as it has stated in the interests of peace — is expected to sign the proposed agreement.”

“Despite this hopefully positive development, the security situation on the ground has been volatile and tense,” she added.

The leader of South Sudan’s major rebel group Riek Machar already signed the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development in Africa (IGAD) peace deal on Aug. 17. President Kiir only initialed a copy of the agreement, expressing his reservations and asking for more time.

The Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O’Brien called for a credible cessation of hostilities to give people breathing space and allow humanitarians to deliver assistance to the over 4 million South Sudanese who don’t have enough food to eat and the over 2 million who have been forced to flee their homes.

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