UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations Security Council on Tuesday unanimously adopted a resolution to impose sanctions on those who disrupt efforts to restore peace in South Sudan, but it stopped short of barring the warring factions from buying more arms.
The resolution passed as the rival factions faced a Thursday deadline for reaching a deal in peace talks in Ethiopia, and as South Sudan’s army, under mounting pressure, agreed to investigate allegations that a pro-government militia had abducted dozens of children.
Fighting between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and rebels allied with his former vice president, Riek Machar, plunged South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, into a civil war in December 2013 that has killed tens of thousands, displaced two million civilians and left a trail of rapes and executions.
The Council’s resolution does not immediately impose sanctions. Rather, it sets up a panel to identify people who are responsible for undermining the peace efforts, including by recruiting child soldiers and committing serious human rights abuses. It proposes travel bans and an asset freeze for those people, and it offers the possibility of an arms embargo further down the road.
The United States drafted the measure. China, which traditionally shies away from punitive measures like sanctions, voted in favor of it. China has significant oil investments in the country.
South Sudan’s ambassador to the United Nations, Francis Deng, criticized the timing of the measure, which he called “counterproductive” at a time when peace negotiations were underway. “What the president and government of South Sudan need is encouragement, not condemnation,” Mr. Deng said.
The Council measure passed just hours after the chief of South Sudan’s army announced an investigation into allegations that a pro-government militia had abducted dozens of schoolchildren. The United Nations Children’s Fund, or Unicef, initially reported that 89 children, some as young as 13, had been abducted from a village in Upper Nile State.
The agency later revised the figure and said hundreds might have been taken and forced to join a pro-government militia led by Johnson Oloni. It appealed to the government to gain their released.
In a statement Tuesday, Col. Philip Aguer, the spokesman for South Sudan’s army, known as the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army, said his forces were committed to being “child free” and would look into the allegations.
Unicef said it believed that more than 12,000 South Sudanese children had been recruited into armed groups since the conflict began.
Those who conscript children to fight could face targeted sanctions, according to the Council’s resolution. The American ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, described the measure as a way to press the rival leaders to make a deal. Directing her remarks to the South Sudanese factions, she said, “You will be held to account now, as we urge you to compromise to reach an agreement, and later, when you are considering whether to follow through on its terms.”
The Chinese envoy, Liu Jieyi, called on the two sides to “stop fighting immediately.” Beijing has sent the first of what is to be a full infantry battalion for the United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan.
The monitoring group Human Rights Watch said an arms embargo should have been included in the resolution. “Those who are responsible for serious human rights violations should now be named and slapped with a travel ban and asset freeze, and countries or corporations that arm them should be exposed,” said Philippe Bolopion, the group’s United Nations director.