UNITED NATIONS, United States – The United Nations Security Council has agreed to almost double the size of the peacekeeping force in troubled South Sudan, adding nearly 6,000 extra soldiers and police.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon had called for the UNMISS force to be increased to counter a major outbreak of violence, and member states on Tuesday agreed to increase the military contingent to 12,500 troops.
A parallel civilian police deployment will reach 1,323.
But the vote only increased the maximum permitted size of the force. Member states must still commit more troops to UN command, and Ban warned this "will not happen overnight."
In the meantime, Council members demanded an end to hostilities between forces loyal to South Sudan's President Salva Kiir and to his rival deposed vice president Riek Machar.
The resolution expressed "grave alarm and concern regarding the rapidly deteriorating security and humanitarian crisis" and warned that those responsible for war crimes would be held responsible.
The 15-member Council mandated Ban to report back to them on the deployment and any additional troop requests within 15 days.
Two Indian peacekeepers were killed on Thursday when armed members of the Nuer ethnic group attacked a UN camp sheltering Dinkas fleeing the fighting.
On Tuesday, UN officials said they are investigating massacres that could amount to "war crimes and crimes against humanity," and a senior envoy inside Sudan said the death toll was in the thousands.
In their resolution, the Security Council members accused all sides in the conflict of abuses, including both armed groups and national security forces. "We will not be able to protect every civilian in need in South Sudan," Ban said, warning: "The parties are responsible for ending the conflict."
"This is a political crisis which requires a peaceful, political solution. In this season of peace, I urge the leaders of South Sudan to act for peace. Stop the violence. Start the dialogue," he pleaded.
"Save your proud and newly independent country."
South Sudan declared independence in June 2011 and is still the youngest country in the world, born out of a bloody decades-long struggle for independence from Sudan. AFP