FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the August 26 downing of a UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) helicopter outside Bentiu, in northern South Sudan. Of the four Russian crew members on board, three were killed and one was injured. We extend our deepest condolences to their families and to the Russian Federation, which for several years has provided invaluable helicopters and personnel to UNMISS, without which peacekeepers would struggle to move around an extremely challenging conflict area. We welcome the UN’s announcement that it will conduct a full investigation, and call on the Government of South Sudan to initiate a full, transparent and prompt investigation of the incident, and to fully cooperate with the UN’s. The perpetrators of this heinous crime must be found and brought to justice.
Yesterday’s attack further underscores the human cost of the failure by both sides to this conflict to engage seriously in political negotiations, implement the cessation of hostilities agreement to which they agreed earlier this year, and take immediate steps to restore stability. This failure, coupled with a lack of accountability, has opened up space to political spoilers and human rights abusers, who are thriving while the South Sudanese are dying. That space must be closed.
The United States has already sanctioned two South Sudanese, and we will use the authority under President Obama’s Executive Order against others who commit atrocities, obstruct the peace process, or threaten peace and security in South Sudan. We urge others in the international community, including the UN Security Council, to take similar steps. The deliberate targeting of civilians and peacekeepers cannot be tolerated, and UN personnel and facilities must be respected.
The United States reaffirms its strong support for UNMISS and its critical mission of protecting civilians, facilitating humanitarian assistance, and monitoring and investigating human rights abuses and violations. UNMISS’s support to humanitarian workers is especially vital given the staggering, man-made humanitarian crisis threatening the country. More than 1.7 million people have been displaced due to violence, 448,000 of whom have fled the country. There are more than 50,000 children under the age of five at risk of dying from malnutrition this year. Nearly 4 million people are at risk of starvation; and if the fighting doesn’t halt, that number will continue to climb.
The United States remains committed to the people of South Sudan as they strive toward the goal of regaining peace, stability and economic security.
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