UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 31 (Xinhua) -- The UN Security Council on Monday urged all parties in South Sudan to immediately cease hostilities and engage in "direct talks without preconditions" to peacefully resolve the ongoing crisis.
"The members of the Security Council expressed their deep concern at the situation in South Sudan, in particular the devastating impact of the crisis on South Sudan's civilian population and the continuing threat to civilians," said a press statement issued here by the 15-nation body.
The statement came after the Security Council was briefed via videoconference by the secretary-general's special representative in South Sudan Hilde Johnson and commander of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) Maj. Gen. Delali Johnson Sakyi.
In the statement, the Council repeated its call for "an immediate cessation of hostilities and for President Salva Kiir Mayardit, former Vice President Riek Machar and other political leaders to engage urgently in direct talks without preconditions."
"The members of the Security Council stressed that there should be no further delays to cessation of hostilities and commencement of dialogue," the statement said.
It also reiterated support for the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in its efforts to bring about peace.
The members of the Security Council welcomed the IGAD summit held Friday in Nairobi and the continued and essential engagement of IGAD to push for immediate dialogue among South Sudan's leaders, said the statement. They also welcomed the efforts by a number of other countries in this regard.
The most powerful UN body further called for full protection to be afforded to civilians, foreign nationals and UN personnel and facilities, provision of humanitarian access, release of all political detainees, security of economic infrastructure, including oil installations and the safety of the employees, and an end to all violence.
Meanwhile, the Security Council condemned incidents of obstruction of the UN mission's operations and renewed their demands that all parties cooperate fully with the mission to allow for its full and immediate operability.
"The members of the Security Council further reiterated their call that efforts to undermine UNMISS' ability to implement its mandate and attacks on UN personnel will not be tolerated," the statement said.
"The Council members reiterated their strong resolve to support a peaceful solution to the crisis in South Sudan and underscored their determination to back all efforts to that end," the statement added.
The conflict in South Sudan began on Dec. 15 when President Kiir's government said soldiers loyal to former deputy president Riek Machar, dismissed in July, launched an attempted coup.
According to UN figures, fighting in South Sudan has led to more than1,000 deaths and the displacement of at least 180,000 people.
The Security Council adopted a resolution last week to send a reinforcement of 5,500 troops and 440 policemen to increase the overall force levels of UNMISS in an effort to protect civilians.
At the IGAD summit, the East African bloc issued a communique in which it condemned the violent escalation of conflict and demanded an immediate cease-fire in South Sudan.
The South Sudanese government said earlier that it agreed on the cease-fire, and that Machar rejected it and demanded a mechanism to monitor the cease-fire.
South Sudan's Machar urged to accept ceasefire
KHARTOUM, Dec. 30 (Xinhua) -- Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said Monday that leaders of Inter-Governmental Authority for Development would join hands together against forces allied to South Sudanese ex-vice president Riek Machar, if he fails to respond to a ceasefire agreement offered by the organization, the Sudan tribune reported. Full story
UN chief urges full cooperation of S. Sudan parties to solve crisis
UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 30 (Xinhua) -- The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for "full cooperation" of all parties in finding a peaceful solution to the crisis of South Sudan on Monday, in a phone call with its president Salva Kiir.
Ban welcomed Kiir's commitment to a cessation of hostilities and readiness to engage opposition leaders in dialogue and encouraged him to consider the early release of political prisoners, said the UN spokesperson's office. Full story
News Analysis: Ceasefire remains under horizon in South Sudan
KHARTOUM, Dec. 28 (Xinhua) -- Although Juba agreed to end fighting with defectors loyal to former a former vice president, peace remains hard to reach in South Sudan as the conflicting sides are divided on a true ceasefire.
The South Sudanese government said via Twitter: "We have agreed in principle to a ceasefire to begin immediately, but our forces are prepared to defend themselves if attacked." Full story
South Sudan army says not received cease-fire order
KHARTOUM, Dec. 28 (Xinhua) -- South Sudan's army on Saturday said it has not received any order to end fighting with forces loyal to former South Sudan vice-president Riek Machar.
"We have not received any order to cease fire," Philip Aguer, an army spokesperson, told Xinhua by phone, adding the army was continuing its operations against the rebels. Full story
First batch of UN peacekeeping reinforcements reaches South Sudan
UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 27 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations said on Friday the first batch of peacekeeping reinforcements has arrived at Juba, the capital of South Sudan.
A 72-officer-strong Bangladeshi police unit that was originally serving the UN mission in Democratic Republic of the Congo reached Juba, said the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), which has been confirmed to Xinhua by UN spokesperson's office. Full story