UN Security Council pessimistic on swift S.Sudan peace deal: envoy

AFP
United Nations (UN) Security Council members attend a meeting with South Sudan's President Salva Kiir (C) and members of his cabinet August 12, 2014 in Juba
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Juba (AFP) - UN Security Council envoys said Wednesday they had little hope of a swift end to South Sudan's eight-month long conflict, despite threatening sanctions during meetings with the warring leaders.

"We did not hear much from them that gave us hope that there will be rapid agreement," in peace talks, British ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told reporters, describing discussions with leaders as "disappointing."

Envoys met with President Salva Kiir in Juba, and held talks via a video link with rebel chief Riek Machar.

"Both said that they recognize that there was no military solution to the crisis, but the two positions remain far apart," Grant said.

"What we are see is the failure of leadership in the country, the leaders are at war with each other," he added, speaking before the 15-member council left South Sudan at the end of a two-day visit.

The UN has said the food crisis is the "worst in the world", with aid workers warning of famine within weeks if conflict continues.

Thousands of people have been killed and more than 1.5 million have fled civil war sparked by a power struggle between Kiir and his sacked deputy Machar, with battles between government troops, mutinous soldiers and ragtag militia forces divided by tribe.

The UN Security Council last week threatened to slap sanctions on leaders of both sides if fighting continues, a warning repeated by Grant.

"We underlined a very strong message that there will be consequences for those who undermine the peace process, that are not willing to put aside their personal agendas in the interest of the people," he added.

- 'Horrific human toll' -

Stop-start peace talks in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa which began in January officially restarted again last week, but the delegates have made little if any progress.

Three ceasefire agreements have all been broken, while leaders missed a key deadline on Sunday to forge a unity government.

US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said there were "very worrying reports" more weapons and arms were being brought into South Sudan for a fresh offensive.

She too on Wednesday warned of "consequences" for anyone not pushing for peace, "given the horrific human toll that this conflict is taking every day."

The UN envoys are later due to meet in Kenya regional foreign ministers from the east African IGAD-bloc, which is mediating the slow moving talks.

"We shall be discussing with them what the next steps are," Grant added.

The diplomats also visited the Somali capital Mogadishu on Wednesday, meeting with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and top government officials under heavy security.

The United States and the European Union have already imposed penalties on three senior South Sudanese army commanders from the government and opposition, while IGAD nations have suggested they could follow suit if progress was not made.

The US said Tuesday it would provide $180 million in additional aid to help feed people. The funds would raise to $636 million the total amount Washington has put up in humanitarian assistance.

"The scale of the suffering and humanitarian need there is shocking, and the threat of famine is real -- so much so that we are using this emergency funding authority for the first time since 2008," the White House said.

The UN warns 50,000 children face death from malnutrition, while half the country's population need urgent food aid.

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