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Statement by Ambassador Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, on the Violence in South Sudan, May 20, 2015

By US Department of State
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NEW YORK, May 21, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the May 20 mortar attacks on the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) compound in Melut, South Sudan, that resulted in the death of four people, including one child, and severely injured eight others. We extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the victims and reiterate our call for those responsible for attacks on civilians and UN facilities to be held accountable.

Today's attacks are only the latest in a series of brutally violent acts against civilians, including the raping and murder of children, resulting from increased fighting between the Government of South Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Army in Opposition, and their respective affiliated militias and other armed groups, in Unity and Upper Nile States over the last two weeks. As this most recent incident underscores, the renewed fighting in South Sudan puts at risk UNMISS bases and protection of civilian sites; and it does so at a time when across the country more than 3 million people are lacking sufficient food and more than 2 million are internally displaced.

The international community is footing the bill for President Salva Kiir's and opposition leader Riek Machar's shameful disregard for the devastating humanitarian crisis facing the people of South Sudan. Political and military leaders on all sides of this conflict must put aside their self-serving ambitions, bring an end to the fighting, implement the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement to which both have already agreed, and engage in negotiations for a comprehensive and inclusive peace agreement to establish a transitional government and bring about a reform process that addresses the root causes of this conflict.

South Sudan's political leaders continue to refuse to prioritize the well-being of their own people, necessitating an increase in international pressure on the South Sudanese parties so that they accept and implement a credible peace agreement. In this vein, we will continue our work with the UN Security Council's South Sudan Sanctions Committee to gather and review evidence that might be useful for sanctions listings that target political spoilers and those who violate and abuse human rights and violate international humanitarian law.

We regret that South Sudan's political leaders repeatedly fail to heed international humanitarian law's prohibition on intentionally targeting civilians. Additionally, all parties should regard UNMISS sites as inviolable and the work of UNMISS personnel should be respected, supported and protected as they endeavor to protect the more than 120,000 internally displaced people sheltering at UNMISS bases and the many others outside these bases who are displaced by the ongoing fighting.