The US on Thursday urged the UN Security Council to impose an arms embargo and new sanctions on South Sudan to curb violence that could lead to mass atrocities, a proposal immediately rejected by Russia as premature and irresponsible.
US Ambassador Samantha Power told the council that an arms embargo would not prevent weapons getting into the conflict-wracked country, but it would be “an important step toward curbing the ongoing violence perpetrated by [South Sudanese] government and opposition forces against civilians.”
Russian Deputy UN Ambassador Petr Iliichev said that an arms embargo “would hardly be helpful in settling the conflict,” and imposing a travel ban and asset freeze on South Sudan’s leaders “would be the height of irresponsibility now.”
Their exchange followed a plea by UN expert on preventing genocide Adama Dieng for action, including an immediate arms embargo to help keep ethnic hatreds in the world’s newest nation from turning into genocide.
Dieng told the council that conversations with those involved in the conflict during a visit last week “confirmed that what began as a political conflict has transformed into what could become an outright ethnic war.”
The draft resolution, which was seen by reporters, would prevent “the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer” of weapons to the government or the opposition, and would add individuals to the sanctions list.
Power said that the people targeted would be those most responsible for preventing peace.
There were high hopes that South Sudan would have peace and stability after its independence from neighboring Sudan in 2011, but the country plunged into ethnic violence in 2013.
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