United Nations: The UN Security Council on Tuesday unanimously adopted a resolution to slap sanctions on South Sudan`s warring factions, ratcheting up pressure as a deadline loomed to reach a peace deal.
Drafted by the United States, the resolution sets up a sanctions committee which would submit to the council the names of those responsible for blocking peace efforts, and who should be punished with a global travel ban and assets freeze.
Regional mediators have given South Sudan`s President Salva Kiir and rebel chief Riek Machar until Thursday to end 14 months of war that have killed tens of thousands of people.
US Ambassador Samantha Power told the 15-member council that the resolution would give African mediators leverage in their push for a deal by making clear that "those who frustrate peace must begin to pay the price."
The resolution was approved by all 15 council members including veto-wielding member China which had criticized the move as unhelpful at a time when the warring factions were involved in complicated negotiations.
Diplomats said the move toward sanctions won the backing of all council members after African governments, deeply frustrated with the lack of progress in peace talks, threw their support behind the measure.
Russian envoy Pyotr Ilyichev expressed skepticism, saying that the move could be "hasty" and that sanctions could backfire in the effort to bring peace.
The resolution states that those who "threaten the peace, security and stability of South Sudan" could be targeted for UN sanctions.
These include warring factions that obstruct peace talks, impede humanitarian aid deliveries, recruit child soldiers or attack UN peacekeepers.
Fighting has raged in South Sudan despite several peace deals which have never been implemented in what UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous described last week as "serious failure of leadership."
The latest round of talks in Addis Ababa focused on reaching a final deal that includes a transitional unity government to be put in place no later than July 9.
Opening a face-to-face meeting of South Sudan`s leaders in Addis Ababa earlier, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn warned that "very little time remains" and that "the region is frustrated" with the lack of progress.
Fighting broke out in South Sudan, the world`s youngest nation, in December 2013 when Kiir accused his sacked deputy Machar of attempting a coup.
More than 1.5 million people have been displaced in the conflict and 2.5 million are in dire need of food aid in the country, which declared independence from Sudan in 2011.
At least 113,000 civilians have fled to UN bases for protection as government troops and fighters are accused of waging terror campaigns of rape and killing.
The resolution raises the possibility of imposing an arms embargo on South Sudan, a measure strongly backed by European countries despite concerns that the ban could penalize Kiir`s forces more than the rebel fighters.