U.N. tells Sudan, S. Sudan to halt violence

This market in Rubkona, South Sudan, was left in smoldering ruins recently after an attack by Sudanese troops.

UNITED NATIONS — In an attempt to avert a new war in Africa, the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Wednesday threatening non-military sanctions against Sudan and South Sudan if they don’t halt escalating violence and return to negotiations.

The legally binding resolution endorses an African Union roadmap with strict timelines for concrete actions by both countries to get them to step back from the brink of major hostilities and resolve differences over their border and oil resources and revenues.

Addressing the council after the vote, South Sudan’s Minister of Cabinet Affairs Deng Alor stated his government’s “solemn commitment” to comply with the resolution.

Sudan’s U.N. Ambassador Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman expressed reservations, saying peace will be achieved only if South Sudan stops “all forms of support and sheltering of proxy and rebel armed groups” and “until that is given a priority in the negotiations, it will be extremely difficult to proceed on any other matter” covered by the resolution.

China, a major oil buyer from both countries, and Russia traditionally oppose sanctions, but voted in favor of the U.S.-drafted resolution after a minor change to the text, a reflection of growing international alarm at the crisis.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said he supported the resolution “given the need for a swift overcoming of the dangerous phase in relations between Sudan and South Sudan.”

Churkin stressed that Russia considers sanctions “an extreme measure” and underscored “that the arsenal of political and diplomatic instruments for normalizing the situation has nowhere been exhausted,”

The resolution condemns repeated cross-border violence between the two sides, including troop movements, the South’s seizure of the oil-rich town of Heglig, support to proxy forces by both countries, and Sudan’s aerial bombings in the South.

There has been talk in both countries of trying to get rid of the other’s leaders, and the resolution also condemns “actions by any armed group aimed at the forced overthrow of the government of either Sudan or South Sudan.”