UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council said on Friday it was gravely concerned about violence in a volatile and oil-rich Sudan border territory, and called for an immediate end to hostilities there.
Southern Kordofan, the area of concern, is in Sudan but includes large populations which sided with the south during a 20-year civil war. Armed groups in the state have been fighting Khartoum government troops since early June.
South Sudan became an independent country on Saturday after its people voted in a referendum to break away from Sudan, which lost around three-quarters of its oil reserves in the split. Southern Kordofan is its biggest remaining oil state.
Members of the Security Council “expressed their grave concern about the ongoing violence” at a briefing on Friday, said German Ambassador Peter Wittig, Security Council President for the month of July.
They called on the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement’s (SPLM) northern sector to agree to an immediate cessation of hostilities, Wittig said. The SPLM is South Sudan’s dominant political force.
“Members of the Security Council urged all parties to respect humanitarian principles and to allow humanitarian personnel timely and unfettered access to the affected civilian population,” Wittig told reporters after the meeting.
A draft U.N. report obtained by Reuters on Thursday called for the Security Council to mandate an inquiry into violence in Southern Kordofan, saying the conduct of the north’s Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) there had been “especially egregious.”
The report concentrates on acts committed since June 5, when fighting broke out. Reported acts include aerial bombardment, abductions, arbitrary arrests and attacks on churches, it said.
The acts were allegedly perpetrated by forces including the SAF, the report said. If proven, they may constitute “war crimes,” it added.
U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said on Friday she was “increasingly alarmed by the mounting allegations of mass graves in South Kordofan ... and of reported disappearances of civilians, targeting of people on an ethnic basis, and extra-judicial killings.”
She said in a statement the United Nations could not verify the reports due to movement restrictions imposed by Khartoum on international organizations and personnel.
The government has repeatedly denied U.N. humanitarian agencies’ requests for unhindered access to the 1.4 million residents in South Kordofan, Amos said.
“The serious allegations of violations of human rights and humanitarian law allegedly taking place in South Kordofan need to be investigated,” she added.
The U.N. report recommends that the Security Council establish a commission of inquiry into the violence and that both sides negotiate. It asks that the SAF “immediately halts its aerial bombardments in Southern Kordofan.”