- Associated Press - Friday, March 15, 2019

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The Security Council extended the mandate of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in South Sudan by a vote of 14-0 on Friday with Russia abstaining to protest the resolution’s failure to welcome September’s peace agreement.

Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Dmitry Polyansky’s complaint was clearly aimed at the United States, among others.

U.S. deputy ambassador Jonathan Cohen told reporters after the vote that the Trump administration “remains deeply concerned by the lack of political commitment from parties at the national level to fully implement all tenets of the agreement.”

“Having seen previous peace agreements in South Sudan fail to hold and the country fall back into conflict and instability,” Cohen said, “the United States and the South Sudanese people expect South Sudan’s leaders to demonstrate a clear commitment to the implementation of the agreement through rhetoric and action.”

Polyansky countered that there has been “progress” since the peace agreement was signed in Sudan’s capital Khartoum. He cited “a substantial drop in the level of violence recorded” and in the number of human rights violations.

“We are disappointed by the stubborn reluctance of colleagues to welcome the Khartoum agreements, which have already proved their viability,” Polyansky said. “We believe this is the incorrect signal to be sent both to the parties in South Sudan and also the leading regional powers that made colossal efforts to achieve this.”

There were high hopes that South Sudan would have peace and stability after gaining its independence from neighboring Sudan in 2011. But it plunged into ethnic violence in December 2013 when forces loyal to President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, started battling those loyal to Riek Machar, his former vice president who belongs to the Nuer people.

Fighting has killed almost 400,000 people, displaced over four million and left more than 7 million - two-thirds of the population - “severely food insecure” and in need of humanitarian aid.

Many peace agreements have failed, but since the September deal was signed, the previously warring parties have been trying to rebuild trust though U.N. envoy David Shearer told the council last week that “progress has been slow.”

He said there are just two months left before a transitional government is scheduled to take over on May 13, and the vice presidents - including first vice president Machar - should have taken up their roles.

Shearer said there are “fundamental issues still to be resolved” including determining the number and borders of states, forming an armed force to be deployed in the capital Juba and major towns to provide security for returning opposition leaders, and drafting a new constitution.

He urged all parties to the peace agreement to maintain momentum to end the five-year conflict, saying there is “no Plan B” and warning that if peace efforts falter the African nation could again be engulfed in serious violence.

The resolution adopted Friday extends the U.N. peacekeeping mission in South Sudan known as UNMISS until March 15, 2020 at its current force levels - a ceiling of 17,000 troops including a regional protection force of up to 4,000 troops, and 2,101 international police personnel.

The council asked U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to take steps to “expedite” deployments.

The main mandate of UNMISS remains the protection of civilians threatened by violence, creating conditions to deliver humanitarian aid, and supporting implementation of the peace agreement.

America’s Cohen called on South Sudan’s leaders to fully adhere to cease-fire agreements and stop obstructing cease-fire monitors, negotiate security arrangements and power sharing agreements - and “take action against gender-based violence.”

Russia’s Polyansky said Moscow is also concerned that the resolution which is supposed to outline the mandate of peacekeepers “is overburdened with formulations and wording on gender issues and human rights.”

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