By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - China and Russia are resisting a Western push for the U.N. Security Council to threaten Sudan and South Sudan with sanctions if the two countries fail to comply with demands to halt their escalating conflict, U.N. envoys said.
The U.N. negotiations on Sudan and South Sudan, former civil war foes that split when the south seceded last year, follow weeks of border fighting that have raised fears Khartoum and Juba could launch an all-out war, after failing to resolve a string of disputes over oil revenues and border demarcation.
Delegates from the 15-nation Security Council met on Monday for several hours at the U.S. mission in New York to try to reach an agreement on amending a U.S.-drafted resolution on the two Sudans that council members hope to put to a vote later this week, Western diplomats told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
After their discussions, the United States circulated a revised draft resolution that threatens both Sudan and South Sudan with "additional measures" under Article 41 of the U.N. charter, which allows the council to impose economic and diplomatic sanctions on countries that ignore its decisions.
"The draft will probably change before it goes to a vote, which we hope will happen on Wednesday," a diplomat told Reuters. "China doesn't want any mention of Article 41."
Beijing, which has close trade relations with both Khartoum and Juba, has traditionally acted as Sudan's protector on the council and for years has shielded it from U.S. and European calls for sanctions due to its handling of conflicts in its western Darfur region and elsewhere in the country.
Russia is supporting China's push to water down the resolution and also dislikes the idea of mentioning Article 41 in the resolution, council diplomats said. Article 41 does not authorize military intervention.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made clear at a joint news conference in Moscow on Monday with visiting Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti that Russia has reservations about threatening the two Sudans with punitive measures.
He also suggested that Russia did not want any automatic triggers for sanctions in the draft resolution.
"Yes, some economic measures could be taken but ... this is not an automatic decision, but only an indication, depending on how the resolution is implemented," Lavrov said.
Under the latest U.S. draft, as with two previous versions, the council would have to pass a new resolution to impose sanctions on either Khartoum or Juba for not ending hostilities.
The United States made an attempt to soften the language in the latest draft. The first version, obtained by Reuters, warned Khartoum and Juba of "its determination, in the event that one or both of the parties have not complied, to take appropriate additional measures under Article 41 of the (U.N.) Charter."
The latest version, also obtained by Reuters, softens it by speaking of the council's "intention" to take steps under Article 41 in the event of non-compliance.
The African Union's Peace and Security Council last week urged both sides to cease hostilities and withdraw troops from disputed areas, and warned it would issue its own binding rulings if they failed to strike deals on a string of disputes within three months.
The U.S.-drafted Security Council resolution is intended to reinforce the AU declaration by making it legally binding.
Russia has traditionally been reluctant to impose sanctions on any nation, calling them counterproductive.
Sudan's Karti said on Monday in Moscow that Sudan had armed forces on the border with South Sudan for legitimate protection.
"This is within the borders of Sudan and not outside of Sudan and this is our right, we can deploy our forces anywhere," he said. "We're not at all preparing ourselves for war."
On Sunday, South Sudan told the United Nations it would pull all police out of a disputed region on its border with Sudan.
(Additional reporting by Lidia Kelly in Moscow; Editing by Paul Simao)