UNITED NATIONS (AP) — South Sudan warned Tuesday that imposing sanctions will only make it harder to find an elusive peace in a yearlong conflict that has ripped the country apart and killed thousands of civilians.
Ambassador Francis Deng told the U.N. Security Council that targeted sanctions suggested by council members this month likely would "harden positions toward confrontation rather than cooperation," and he insisted that his government remains optimistic that a peace deal is possible.
The conflict in the world's youngest country, one rich in oil, already has staggered through a number of failed cease-fires. Deng blamed the slow pace of talks on the "frequent adjournment" by East African regional mediators.
Impatient, a United States official this month said the U.S. is seeking a U.N. resolution that would authorize sanctions against individuals who are undermining South Sudan's political stability and abusing human rights. The resolution would press President Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar to reach a peace agreement.
The fighting between troops loyal to Kiir and rebels loyal to Machar has forced about 1.9 million people to flee their homes, and about 100,000 people remain camped at nine U.N. bases across the country in an effort to escape the conflict.
The violence has carried an ethnic dimension between Kiir's Dinkas and Machar's Nuer communities, alarming Security Council members who visited the country in August.
The council on Tuesday unanimously extended the U.N. peacekeeping mission in South Sudan for another six months.
In his latest report on the conflict, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the international community has grown impatient with the failure of South Sudan's leadership to stop the months of fighting.
"I am particularly worried that both parties have so far indicated their preference for military conflict if the other side is not ready to sign a peace agreement on their terms," Ban's report said.
The secretary-general's report also warned that the U.N. mission alone can't effectively protect civilians. As of Nov. 5, the mission had 10,335 military personnel on the ground in South Sudan, out of the 12,500 troops approved for the mission.
South Sudan is a largely Christian nation that broke off from Muslim-dominated Sudan after a 2011 referendum.