U.S. proposes United Nations arms embargo on South Sudan

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States proposed on Wednesday implementing a United Nations arms embargo on South Sudan and further targeted sanctions from Sept. 6 unless President Salva Kiir signs a peace deal to end the country’s 20-month conflict.

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir Mayardit (L) gestures as he leaves after attending peace talks with the South Sudanese rebels in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, March 6, 2015. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

According to a draft resolution circulated to the U.N. Security Council - and seen by Reuters - if U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reports before Sept. 6 that both parties have signed the deal and implemented a ceasefire then the arms embargo and further targeted sanctions would not be implemented.

A senior U.S. diplomat said it was hoped the draft could be voted on “imminently” by the 15-member council.

“We are trying to sharpen the choices that lie ahead for the leadership of South Sudan and make very plain that there is only once choice that is left to be made and that choice is the choice for peace and for security,” said the senior diplomat.

Kiir asked for another 15 days to consider the peace deal brokered by regional leaders, shrugging off pressure to meet a Monday deadline. Kiir told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday he intends to sign a peace deal.

“For the council to be influential in that decision-making we think it’s important for the council to act very soon,” said the senior U.S. diplomat.

South Sudan plunged into civil war in December 2013 when a political crisis sparked fighting between forces loyal to Kiir and rebels allied with his former deputy Riek Machar. The conflict has reopened ethnic fault lines that pit Kiir’s Dinka against Machar’s ethnic Nuer forces.

Machar accepted the peace deal on Monday.

The draft Security Council resolution would condemn the failure of Kiir’s government to reach a peace deal and demand that it immediately sign the agreement.

The Security Council blacklisted six rival generals in South Sudan in July, the first people to be subjected to a global asset freeze and travel ban.

It was not immediately clear how many further names the United States had proposed adding to the sanctions list. Another Security Council diplomat said there was likely to be a debate among council members on whether to sanction Kiir.

U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous pushed the U.N. Security Council last month to impose an arms embargo on South Sudan, where U.N. troops are sheltering more than 100,000 civilians at several sites around the country.

Diplomats said the council could not agree on imposing an arms embargo when it set up the sanctions regime in March, with the United States, Russia and China opposed to it, while European and other council members were in favor.

China’s U.N. Ambassador Liu Jieyi said on Tuesday that he hoped a peace deal could be reached in South Sudan. “I think we should work harder to move the two sides together,” he said.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols, editing by G Crosse and Lisa Shumaker