UNITED NATIONS - The United States Friday pressed South Sudan's warring leaders to set a date for face-to-face talks, urging the UN Security Council to consider sanctions to stop attacks on civilians.
Secretary of State John Kerry said during a visit to South Sudan that President Salva Kiir and rebel commander Riek Machar were both committed to holding direct talks.
"Salva Kiir has said he will meet directly with former vice president Machar," US ambassador Samantha Power told UN Security Council talks on the four-month-old conflict.
"We heard many promises from South Sudanese leaders before without follow-up... We hope for the sake of the people of South Sudan that this time it is different," she added.
"We urge President Kiir and former vice president Machar to swiftly agree on a date for face-to-face talks."
The meeting between Kiir and Kerry ended with an agreement to have direct talks with Machar. PHOTO BY AFP
Last month, President Barack Obama authorized punitive sanctions, including the seizure of assets and visa bans, against anyone in South Sudan deemed to be threatening peace efforts.
Power said the United Nations should also consider sanctions.
"This council should consider urgently whether to put in place parallel targeted sanctions so as to try to deter outrageous attacks on civilians," she said.
The conflict started on December 15 with Kiir accusing Machar of attempting a coup. Machar launched a rebellion, insisting that Kiir had attempted to carry out a bloody purge of his rivals.
The war has seen the world's youngest nation collapse into a cycle of war crimes by both sides, including ethnic massacres, rape and child soldier recruitment.
South Sudan president Kiir agrees to meet rebel leader Machar