The United States and Britain pushed for UN sanctions Tuesday to punish South Sudan\’s government over failure to sign a peace deal as the Security Council weighed its next move to help end the nearly two-year war.
South Sudan rebel chief Riek Machar signed the power-sharing agreement late Monday but President Salva Kiir only initialed part of it and said he would return to the table in early September to finalize the accord.
The US envoy for political affairs, David Pressman, called the latest failure to end the 20-month conflict "outrageous" and said it was time to pile pressure on those who are blocking a peace deal.
The council must "take action to mobilize our collective resources and increase pressure accordingly on those frustrating peace," he added.
The US diplomat also called for steps to ensure that those responsible for atrocities in the war — which has killed tens of thousands — face justice.
The accord was brokered by the eight-nation East African IGAD bloc, bolstered by the UN, the European Union, the African Union, China and other players — including Britain and the United States.
"If the government will not sign up to the IGAD-plus deal, then we must all be firm on our next steps," British Deputy Ambassador Peter Wilson told the 15-member Security Council.
"We cannot sit by while leaders fight and their people\’s suffering grows."
The council last month imposed sanctions on six commanders — three from the government forces and three from the rebels — the first to be blacklisted by the United Nations over the conflict.
A travel ban and an assets freeze were slapped on the six men and the council is considering adding new names to the sanctions list, as well as an arms embargo.
But China, which has oil interests in South Sudan, said the government should be allowed more time to come onboard.
"The best solution would be to reach an agreement," said Chinese Ambassador Liu Jieyi.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the signing of the deal by the rebel leader and expressed "his strong hope that President Kiir will sign the agreement by the end of the 15-day deadline."
The Security Council is due to discuss sanctions on South Sudan at a meeting next Tuesday.
South Sudan has been torn by fighting between forces loyal to Kiir and rebels allied with Machar, his former deputy, since December 2013 and the violence has imploded along ethnic lines.
Nearly 70 percent of the country\’s population is facing food shortages while nearly 200,000 terrified civilians are sheltering in UN bases.