A push at the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on South Sudan’s warring parties has reached an impasse due to a dispute over whether to include an arms embargo, diplomats said.
Washington informed fellow council members last month it would circulate a draft resolution establishing an UN sanctions regime for conflict-torn South Sudan. So far no draft has reached the 15-nation council.
“European council members, Australia and others want an arms embargo and the United States doesn’t,” a Western diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity. “We’re stuck at the moment.”
There is broad support for targeting individuals on both sides with travel bans and asset freezes, diplomats said. The reason for the US reluctance is fear a weapons ban would disproportionately hurt the government.
Supporters of the arms embargo acknowledge the American point is a valid concern.
“We recognise that risk but believe the amount of killing that’s going on, the fact it’s been going on for a year now, there’s too many weapons there,” a senior diplomat said. “Sending a political signal of an arms embargo would be a good thing and we would do our best to make it stick for both sides.”
The senior diplomat said Russia and China were also likely to oppose an arms embargo, though they have said privately they do not oppose the idea of sanctions.
South Sudan sent a delegation to Washington and New York this month to meet with Security Council delegations to lobby against sanctions.
“The narrative that the peace process has not progressed is inaccurate,” Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said in Washington last week. “Peace is imminent.”
Juba said last month sanctions would exacerbate the conflict.
Fighting erupted last December in South Sudan, which declared independence from Sudan in 2011, after months of political tension between President Salva Kiir and his sacked deputy and rival, Riek Machar.
The civil war has killed more than 10,000 people in the world’s newest state, reopened deep fault lines among ethnic groups, caused over a million to flee and driven the country of 11 million closer to famine.
Peace talks brokered by African regional group IGAD have yet to reach a deal.
A ceasefire signed in January has been broken frequently and peace talks have often stalled. The United States and European Union have imposed sanctions on commanders on both sides.