By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - South Sudan warned the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday that imposing sanctions to try to end nearly a year of violence in the world's youngest state would likely "harden positions toward confrontation rather than cooperation."
Fighting erupted last December in South Sudan after months of political tension between President Salva Kiir and his sacked deputy and rival, Riek Machar. The conflict has reopened deep fault lines among ethnic groups, pitting Kiir's Dinka against Machar's Nuer.
The United States told the 15-member Security Council three weeks ago that it would draft a resolution establishing an international sanctions regime for South Sudan, which declared independence from Sudan in 2011. Diplomats said council members have not yet received a text.
"The primary responsibility for resolving the problems of South Sudan rests squarely with it's leaders. The international community can support these efforts but cannot deliver a solution from outside," South Sudan's U.N. Ambassador Francis Deng told the council.
The European Union and the United States have already imposed bilateral sanctions for frequent breaches of a first peace agreement signed in January. Ongoing talks in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, brokered by East African regional bloc IGAD have yet to reach a lasting deal.
"The frustration of the international community with the pace of talks in Addis (Ababa) is understandable, but sustained solution to the current crisis in South Sudan cannot be achieved by the imposition of sanctions," Deng said.
"Sanctions hardly ever achieve their intended objective, instead they only tend to harden positions toward confrontation rather than cooperation," he said. "The international community can play a positive role by engaging both parties constructively to expedite concluding an agreement."
Deng blamed the slow pace of the peace talks in part on "frequent adjournments" by the IGAD mediators.
The Security Council on Tuesday unanimously renewed the mandate for a 12,500-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission in South Sudan for six months with a focus on the protection of civilians. The United Nations said peacekeepers are protecting some 100,000 displaced people at nine sites around the country.
The conflict has killed more than 10,000 people in South Sudan and caused over 1 million to flee.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, editing by G Crosse)