Wednesday, May 28, 2014

South Sudan Turns to Russia to Avoid UN Sanctions
Map of areas in South Sudan where fighting is taking place.
May 27, 2014 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s minister for foreign affairs, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, is due to visit Russia in the coming days with the aim of helping the war-ravaged country avoid “sanctions and help efforts of peace”, a foreign ministry spokesperson told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday.

Mawien Makol Arik said recent comments by Russia at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) are supportive of the South Sudanese government’s commitment to peaceful settlement of the conflict.

“Instead of us being sanctioned, it will not help the efforts of peace. We need to be supported; first to bring peace to the people and most importantly, to alleviate the current suffering that our people are in,” said Mawien in an interview on Tuesday.

“This is what the government of South Sudan wanted and this is what the government of South Sudan is seeing [as the] Russian position and that is why we are there,” he said.

Fighting broke out in December in Juba between soldiers loyal to former vice-president Riek Machar and president Salva Kiir’s government, quickly spreading to other states of South Sudan.

The conflict, which is entering its sixth month, has killed an estimated 10,000 people and displaced over a million others. Around 4.7 million South Sudanese face severe food shortages, according to the United Nations, with a recent conference generating pledges of more than $600 million from donor countries.

Cessation of hostilities agreements – signed in January by the warring parties and on 9 May by president Kiir and opposition leader Machar – have failed to halt the fighting.

In April, the United States slapped sanctions on two military commanders – one on either side of the conflict – due the two sides being “obstructive” to the peace talks. The European Union and other western countries are threatening sanctions.

The UN has also warned that there will be consequences for a lack of commitment to peace talks.

However, the South Sudanese foreign ministry spokesperson said Russia will not support UN sanctions. As a permanent member of the UNSC, Russia holds a veto over decisions made by the powerful body, whose other permanent members include China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and United States.

But Mawien denied any shift in policy when asked if South Sudan turning away from its Western allies.

“We are still working with [the] Western world. We are still having our relations with the United States but we are inviting other countries to come on our help, to [be] supportive to us and respond to our needs,” he added.


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