UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council on Friday welcomed the signing of a peace agreement aimed at ending South Sudan’s 20-month civil war while warning that it remained ready to impose an arms embargo on the country if the deal collapsed.
The 15-nation council’s statement came as South Sudanese rebels and the army accused each other for the second time this week of attacks that appeared to undermine the fragile peace deal that President Salva Kiir reluctantly signed days after the rebel side accepted it.
“The Security Council acknowledges that this agreement is the first step in reversing the difficult political and economic situation, and humanitarian and security catastrophe resulting from this crisis,” the council said.
The council added that it “calls upon the parties ... to fully implement the agreement.”
The statement included a threat to anyone undermining the agreement. It spoke of the council’s “readiness to consider appropriate measures ... including through the imposition of an arms embargo and additional targeted sanctions.”
Security Council diplomats say they are prepared to move on a U.S.-drafted resolution that would implement an arms embargo if the peace deal falls apart. It could also add additional individuals to a U.N. blacklist.
South Sudan plunged into civil war in December 2013 when a political crisis sparked fighting between forces loyal to Kiir and rebels allied with his former deputy Riek Machar. The conflict has reopened ethnic fault lines that pit Kiir’s Dinka against Machar’s ethnic Nuer forces.
Kiir, who has led South Sudan since it seceded from Sudan in 2011, last week asked for more time for consultations but was given a two-week deadline to sign or risk U.N. sanctions. He ended up signing the deal but noted that he had reservations.
Machar had signed it first.
Fighting has killed thousands of people and displaced more than 2.2 million in the oil-producing nation, 500,000 of whom have fled the country since the civil war began. Many rely on aid to survive.
Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Leslie Adler