UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council demanded on Tuesday that Sudan immediately stop airstrikes on South Sudan and will consider in the coming days what further steps to take to stop clashes between the east African neighbors spiraling into war.
Senior U.N. officials told the 15-nation body that aerial bombing of South Sudan’s Unity State on Monday night had killed 16 civilians, injured several dozen and caused significant damage to infrastructure.
The Sudanese army has denied carrying out air strikes.
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir said the latest hostilities amounted to a declaration of a war by his northern neighbor.
Clashes along the ill-defined border between the former civil-war foes has led to a standoff over the Heglig oil field after it was seized earlier this month by troops from South Sudan, which declared independence last year.
“Council members welcomed the withdrawal from Heglig by the SPLA (South Sudan’s army), demanded an immediate halt to aerial bombardments by the Sudanese forces and urged an immediate ceasefire and return to the negotiating table,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said, characterizing the Security Council consultations on Tuesday.
U.N. under-secretary-general for peacekeeping Herve Ladsous, U.N. envoy to Sudan Haile Menkerios and Hilde Johnson, head of the U.N. mission in South Sudan, known as UNMISS, all briefed the Security Council.
Rice, who is the Security Council president for April, said the council also “acknowledged the constructive contribution of the African Union Peace and Security Council and its communiqué adopted earlier today which will ... inform our consultations on further action.”
The Security Council discussed last week possibly imposing sanctions on Sudan and South Sudan if the violence did not stop.
British U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told reporters that the African Union Peace and Security Council “set out a very detailed and clear roadmap and asked for Security Council Chapter 7 endorsement of that plan.”
A Chapter 7 resolution by the council would be legally binding on both Sudan and South Sudan.
Distrust runs deep between the neighbors, who are at loggerheads over the position of their border, how much the landlocked south should pay to transport its oil through Sudan, and the division of national debt, among other issues.
Both are poor countries - South Sudan is one of the poorest in the world - and the dispute between them has already halted nearly all the oil production that underpins both economies.