UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council said Tuesday that a peace deal in South Sudan signed a year ago is "a window of opportunity" to end the civil war in the world's newest nation and achieve "sustainable peace and stability" — but it must be fully implemented.
The U.N.'s most powerful body said in a statement approved by all 15 members and read at an open meeting that it welcomes "initial progress" in implementing the agreement. That includes a reduction of political violence and the return of some opposition representatives to the capital Juba.
It welcomed recent meetings between President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar, who returned to Juba in early September for the first time in nearly a year for talks in preparation for the formation of a coalition government in November.
The talks focused on speeding up the screening and reunification of forces in order to create a united national army before Machar's expected return again next month, where he'll once again serve as Kiir's deputy.
But the council expressed concern at "the dire humanitarian, human rights and economic situation in South Sudan," and condemned all violations of the peace deal and a December 2017 cease-fire.
It singled out "the ongoing conflict in the Equatorias region, and continued use of sexual violence as a tactic by the parties to the conflict against the civilian population."
Council members called on parties to the peace deal to quickly implement transitional security arrangements and work toward agreement on internal political boundaries.
They also called on parties that have not signed the peace agreement "to renounce violence, adhere to cessation of hostilities agreements, and seek a political resolution to their concerns" about the peace deal.
South Sudan is slowly emerging from five years of civil war that killed almost 400,000 people and displaced millions. The fragile peace deal signed last September so far has been marked by delays and continued fighting in parts of the country.
The Security Council said it looks forward to seeing "substantial progress" on these and other issues during its visit to South Sudan in late October.
It underscored "the pressing need to ensure accountability and end impunity for any violations of international humanitarian law in South Sudan."
The council warned that "actions which threaten the peace, security or stability of South Sudan may be subject to sanctions." But it also affirmed that it is prepared "to adjust measures contained in these resolutions in light of the implementation of the parties' commitments, including the cease-fire."