"It's a tool that has been discussed," a source told Reuters on
condition of anonymity about the possibility of U.S. sanctions
against those blocking peace efforts or fueling violence in South
Sudan. Another source confirmed the remarks, though both declined to
provide details on the precise measures under consideration.
No decisions have been made yet, the sources added. Targeted
sanctions focus on specific individuals, entities or sectors of
The U.S. government was unlikely to consider steps intended to
economically harm impoverished South Sudan but would likely focus on
any measures on those individuals or groups it sees as blocking
efforts at brokering peace or committing atrocities.
Traditionally U.S. sanctions against individuals or groups involve a
ban on travel to the United States and freezing of their assets in
Three weeks of fighting, often along ethnic lines, is ringing alarm
bells in Washington over the prospect that the conflict could spiral
into full-blown civil war, spawning atrocities or making South Sudan
the world's next failed state.
The fact that Washington is thinking of threatening U.S. sanctions
against a country the United States helped create and supports with
large amounts of aid shows how frustrated President Barack Obama's
administration has become with President Salva Kiir and a rebel
faction led by former Vice President Riek Machar.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was asked about the possibility
of U.S. sanctions against South Sudan, where the United Nations has
a large peacekeeping force that is protecting some 75,000 civilians
at its bases. He declined to comment on sanctions but urged all
sides to stop fighting.
Largely Christian South Sudan gained independence from predominantly
Muslim Sudan in 2011 after a referendum was held in keeping with a
2005 U.S.-backed peace deal that ended a north-south civil war that
left millions dead.
EXPERTS FAVOR U.S. SANCTIONS
Kate Almquist Knopf of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies at
the National Defense University said on Thursday that Washington
should consider targeted sanctions if the fighting and political
deadlock in South Sudan continue.
"The United States should move to invoke the president's authorities
to institute travel bans and asset freezes on senior leadership on
both sides, as well as be prepared to extend those sanctions
multilaterally to a resolution in the U.N. Security Council," she
told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.
John Prendergast, a former U.S. State Department official and
co-founder of the Enough Project, an anti-genocide group, told the
same hearing that Washington should also target those in South Sudan
who are linked to mass killings.
He said Washington "should focus on individual culpability - the
targeted sanctions, prosecution of people who are found to be ...
committing or planning atrocities."
[to top of second column]
In a statement on Thursday the White House urged both sides in the
escalating conflict to sign an agreement to cease hostilities
On Wednesday, South Sudanese rebels rejected a government plan to
end a dispute over detainees and unblock peace talks. Fighting in
the oil-producing nation has killed at least 1,000 people and caused
hundreds of thousands to flee their homes, according to the United
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, in turn, has refused to release
11 detainees despite promising Washington last month that he would
free most of them.
U.S. President Barack Obama's National Security Adviser Susan Rice
said in the White House statement that the United States was
disappointed the detainees have not been freed yet but noted that
their continued detention was no excuse to continue fighting.
"The United States reiterates its call upon President Salva Kiir to
release the detainees immediately to the custody of (the East
African trading bloc) IGAD so that they can participate in the
political negotiations," Rice said.
U.N. chief Ban echoed Rice's comments, saying he urged Kiir in a
telephone call on Thursday to release all political detainees. The
U.N. Security Council also urged Kiir to release the detainees and
called on Machar to "agree to a cessation of hostilities without
U.S. government officials and senators said on Thursday that
hundreds of millions of dollars in support to South Sudan's
government could be stopped if the violence continues.
In 2012 the United States joined the other 14 members of the U.N.
Security Council in threatening sanctions against Sudan and South
Sudan due to a crisis over the disputed oil region Heglig, though
council diplomats said Washington was reluctant at the time to back
measures that would undermine Kiir's government.
U.S. officials said Washington was satisfied then that the mere
threat of U.S. support for sanctions was sufficient. The Heglig
crisis was eventually resolved.
(Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle in Washington;
James Dalgleish and David Gregorio)
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