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UK sends diplomat to South Sudan

Britain has sent a senior diplomat to South Sudan to assist efforts to restore peace in the troubled African state, as the United Nations prepared to vote on boosting the size of its force providing protection to civilians.

The UK is backing a Security Council resolution to increase the force strength of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) from 7,000 to 12,500 troops and from 900 to 1,323 civilian police.

Foreign Office political director Sir Simon Gass arrived in South Sudanese capital Juba to support political efforts to end the violence which has gripped the east African country over the past week. He will be working closely over the Christmas period with Norwegian and US envoys who are already in the country.

The death toll from a week of violence in South Sudan has probably passed 1,000 people, while a further 100,000 are thought to have been displaced, though there are no firm numbers available.

Reports suggest that British nationals are among an estimated 3,000 foreigners trapped in the city of Bor, which has experienced some of the worst violence of the last few days. More than 300 people, many of them British nationals, have been evacuated on three flights organised by the UK authorities, the last of which left Juba on December 23. The UK has no plans to run any further evacuation flights.

Foreign Secretary William Hague spoke on December 23 to Ethiopian foreign minister Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who is leading efforts by regional leaders to find a political resolution to the crisis.

Mr Hague said: "The situation in South Sudan is deteriorating. I am extremely concerned by reports of increasing violence along ethnic lines. The targeting of civilians is unacceptable, as are threats against UN peacekeepers trying to protect them. I call on all South Sudanese leaders to restrain their supporters and resolve political differences peacefully.

"I spoke to the Ethiopian foreign minister yesterday to convey the UK's full support for regional and African Union efforts at mediation. The UK is calling for a Security Council Resolution this afternoon that will ensure the United Nations Mission in South Sudan can swiftly receive the reinforcements it needs.

"South Sudan was a country born amid hopes of increased peace and prosperity for its people. The gains made over the past two years should not be thrown away."

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged the Security Council to bolster the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, citing growing violence in many parts of the country, human rights abuses and killings fuelled by ethnic tensions.

He proposed transferring troops and aircraft from existing UN missions in Congo, Ivory Coast, Liberia and the Darfur and Abyei regions of Sudan.

Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, said: "The future of South Sudan is in jeopardy. The leaders of South Sudan face a stark choice. They can return to the political dialogue and spirit of co-operation that helped establish South Sudan or they can destroy those hard-fought gains and tear apart their newborn nation."

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir has blamed an attempted military coup for triggering the outbreak of fighting on December 15, which has led to violence between the Dinka and Nuer ethnic groups.


From Belfast Telegraph