US Secretary of State John Kerry is pressing for a United Nations vote creating an arms embargo on South Sudan in an effort to end the civil war there, a US official said Thursday.
An embargo and sanctions against South Sudan fighters are regularly discussed at the United Nations, and in Washington and Europe.
But there has been little real action, with the White House seen as dragging its feet after making a strong push for the independence of the world’s youngest nation in 2011.
“I would characterize Kerry’s view as supporting the State Department’s view in support of a UN-led embargo,” a US administration official told AFP on Thursday.
Foreign Policy magazine reported last week that National Security Advisor Susan Rice was against an arms embargo on South Sudan, putting her at odds with Kerry and UN envoy Samantha Power.
Rice does not see a benefit to an embargo that would only hit the elected regime of President Salva Kiir and not the rebellion of his former vice-president Riek Machar, according to Foreign Policy.
The US official refused to discuss any possible disagreement between the White House and the State Department on the issue.
In the months that followed the start of the conflict in December 2013, US President Barack Obama repeatedly condemned, pressured and threatened sanctions. He also sent Kerry on a peace mission to Juba.
But in recent weeks, rights groups and other experts have accused Washington of standing idly by over a civil war that has killed tens of thousands of people.
Kiir and Machar signed yet another ceasefire agreement late Sunday following four days of talks in Ethiopia, but they did not address the core issues behind the 13 months of fighting.
The United States has fought for the cause of South Sudan for the past three decades, from backing John Garang’s 1983-2005 rebellion to the July 2011 independence ceremony attended by Rice in Juba.
Meanwhile, a top UN rights chief said South Sudanese fighters carried out a “month of rape” campaign, warning that atrocities continue with a seventh ceasefire broken.
“Violations continue to take place,” said UN Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic, after visiting the “destroyed” towns of Bentiu and Malakal.
Simonovic, speaking after visiting areas that have seen some of the worst fighting in the past 13 months of war, said he had received the “simply appalling” report of fighters embarking on a campaign of rape.
“This is absolutely intolerable,” he said, without giving further details as to which of the multiple armed forces was responsible.
“It is essential to push for peace, this situation is not sustainable,” he added, in a statement released Friday.
Fighting erupted in South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused ousted deputy Riek Machar of attempting a coup.
It quickly spread from the capital Juba, triggering a cycle of retaliatory massacres across the country.