UN passes resolution threatening sanctions on Sudans

SPLA-N fighters stand in front of a captured grenade launcher near Gos village in Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan, 1 May  2012. Recent cross-border fighting between Sudan and South Sudan has raised fears of war

The UN Security Council has threatened to impose sanctions on Sudan and South Sudan if the two nations fail to halt the recent violence.

The unanimously backed resolution calls on Khartoum and Juba to resume negotiations on disputed issues within two weeks.

Fighting in recent weeks has raised fears of a return to all-out war.

South Sudan became independent last year, but disputes with the north over territorial issues remained unresolved.

Earlier, Sudan said it has restarted pumping oil from Heglig, following the recent withdrawal of Southern Sudanese troops.

'On the brink'

The US-drafted resolution backs an African Union roadmap which aims to settle the conflict and bring the two countries back to the negotiating table.

It calls for both countries to unconditionally withdraw troops to their own territory and "immediately cease all hostilities". Both nations must give a written commitment to halt fighting within 48 hours.

It also demands a resumption of talks over outstanding issues within two weeks, with an agreement to be reached within three months.

If either side fails to abide by the terms, then "additional measures" under Article 41 of the UN Charter - which allows for non-military sanctions - will be considered, the resolution says.

The Security Council condemned the South's seizure of Heglig last month, as well as the aerial bombing of villages in the South by Khartoum that followed.

Main disputes between the two Sudans

  • Transit fees South Sudan should pay Sudan to use its oil pipelines
  • Demarcating the border
  • Both sides claim Abyei
  • The rights of each other's citizens now in a foreign country - there are estimated to be 500,000 southerners in Sudan and 80,000 Sudanese in South Sudan
  • Each accuses the other of supporting rebel groups on its territory

Both China, a major oil buyer, and Russia supported the move despite their traditional reservations about sanctions, diplomats said.

China's UN Ambassador Li Baodong said Beijing was "was always cautious about the use of sanctions", but that it was "deeply worried" about the deteriorating situation.

Ahead of the vote, Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Moscow had some reservations over it, but that they would support it "because of the African Union".

US Ambassador Susan Rice warned that both countries were "on the brink of returning to the horrors of the past and taking the entire region with them".

She welcomed the "strong and unanimous" support for the AU plan, adding: "This is ultimately the only way that further conflict can be avoided."

Earlier, Sudanese officials said they had begun pumping oil again from the key Heglig oilfield, saying they had repaired pipelines and that some oil had already reached Khartoum.

Disputes over the sharing of oil revenue is a major cause of conflict between Juba and Khartoum.

South Sudan took most of the former united Sudan's oil reserves when it seceded in July 2011 but relies on pipelines to seaports in Sudan to export it.

South Sudan seceded from Sudan last year as part of a 2005 peace treaty following two decades of civil war in which some 1.5m people died.

Map showing position of oilfileds in Sudan, source: Drilling info international

Both Sudan and the South are reliant on their oil revenues, which account for 98% of South Sudan's budget. But the two countries cannot agree how to divide the oil wealth of the former united state. Some 75% of the oil lies in the South but all the pipelines run north. It is feared that disputes over oil could lead the two neighbours to return to war.

Satellite image showing geography of Sudan, source: Nasa

Although they were united for many years, the two Sudans were always very different. The great divide is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. South Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.

Map showing Ethnicity of Sudan, source:

Sudan's arid north is mainly home to Arabic-speaking Muslims. But in South Sudan there is no dominant culture. The Dinkas and the Nuers are the largest of more than 200 ethnic groups, each with its own languages and traditional beliefs, alongside Christianity and Islam.

Map showing infant Mortality in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

The health inequalities in Sudan are illustrated by infant mortality rates. In South Sudan, one in 10 children die before their first birthday. Whereas in the more developed northern states, such as Gezira and White Nile, half of those children would be expected to survive.

Map showing percentage of households using improved water and sanitation in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

The gulf in water resources between north and south is stark. In Khartoum, River Nile, and Gezira states, two-thirds of people have access to piped drinking water and pit latrines. In the south, boreholes and unprotected wells are the main drinking sources. More than 80% of southerners have no toilet facilities whatsoever.

Map showing percentage of who complete primary school education in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

Throughout the two Sudans, access to primary school education is strongly linked to household earnings. In the poorest parts of the south, less than 1% of children finish primary school. Whereas in the wealthier north, up to 50% of children complete primary level education.

Map showing percentage of households with poor food consumption in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

Conflict and poverty are the main causes of food insecurity in both countries. In Sudan, many of the residents of war-affected Darfur and the border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, depend on food aid. The UN said about 2.8m people in South Sudan would require food aid in 2013. The northern states tend to be wealthier, more urbanised and less reliant on agriculture.

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