UN wants peacekeeping drones in South Sudan, which objects

Created: 10/10/2015 7:52 AM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council is urging the use of unarmed drones in the peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, but the government there says that could cause "disagreement and hostility" as a peace deal tries to take hold.

The council on Friday adopted a U.S.-drafted resolution requesting the U.N. secretary-general to "prioritize" the deployment of remaining troops, plus military helicopters and drones. The U.N. is exploring the use of drones in a growing number of peacekeeping missions after first using them in Congo in 2013.

But deploying the drones — even getting them into South Sudan — needs government consent. "The mission requires the collaboration and cooperation from the host authorities for its operations, including air and aviation ones," a U.N. official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Ambassador Francis Deng told the council that requesting drones without consulting his government is "to invite controversy."

South Sudan's rival sides signed a peace deal in August, but numerous cease-fire violations have been reported. Each side blames the other for the violations. Meanwhile, more than 100,000 civilians remain sheltered in U.N. bases throughout the country. Thousands have been killed in the conflict fueled by the rivalry between President Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar.

The council resolution also extends the peacekeeping mission's mandate until Dec. 15 while supporting the implementation of the peace deal. The mission has more than 12,500 uniformed personnel on the ground.

At the same time, the United States made sure the resolution included a reference to the long-standing threat of targeted sanctions against those who threaten the country's peace and stability.

"This resolution expresses our continued commitment to maintain pressure on both sides, neither of which has fully complied with its ceasefire obligations," a deputy U.S. ambassador, David Pressman, told the council.

Some council members objected, calling the threat unhelpful to the fragile peace agreement. "Why do you need to deal with sanctions before you start implementing something?" Chad's ambassador, Mahamat Zene Cherif, told reporters before the vote.

(Copyright 2015 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)