In a unanimous declaration, the council’s 15 member countries on Sunday also demanded that President Salva Kiir and his Vice President Riek Machar “do their utmost to control their respective forces, urgently end the fighting and prevent the spread of violence.”
It called for the two rivals to “genuinely commit themselves to the full and immediate implementation of the peace agreement, including the permanent ceasefire and redeployment of military forces from Juba.”
The battles are the first between the army and ex-rebels in Juba since rebel leader Machar returned to take up the post of vice president in a unity government in April, under an accord to end a bloody civil war.
The council’s statement “condemned in the strongest terms” the battles that began on Thursday, stressing that attacks against civilians and UN personnel and facilities may constitute war crimes.
It also urged accountability, warning of sanctions.
Council members also urged unspecified “countries in the region,” the African Union Peace and Security Council and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, to “continue firmly engaging with South Sudanese leaders to address the crisis.”
The statement pressed countries in the region to “prepare to provide additional troops” as needed.
“The members of the Security Council expressed their readiness to consider enhancing UNMISS to better ensure that UNMISS and the international community can prevent and respond to violence in South Sudan,” it added.
The statement followed a council meeting behind closed doors on the fighting.
On the way into the meeting, Britain’s deputy permanent representative Peter Wilson said “we have called for an arms embargo, this situation underlines the need for that.”
France’s UN Ambassador Francois Delattre also voiced dismay.
“We are extremely worried about the situation… it is a result of a lack of political will on the side of the parties… The key word is pressure, to urge the parties to take their responsibilities.”
– ‘Shocked and appalled’ –
UN peacekeeping mission chief Herve Ladsous earlier informed the council members about the situation on the ground.
The UNMISS mission was caught in the exchange of fire. A Chinese peacekeeper was killed and several others were wounded.
However, Ladsous cautioned, “we cannot be sure of the figures.”
“The conclusion is that command and control does not really work in this country,” he said, referring to Kiir and Machar’s failure to completely control their forces.
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said earlier he was “shocked and appalled” by the fighting between government and former rebel forces in Juba, and urged both sides to halt the violence.
South Sudan has seen more fighting than peace since winning independence from Sudan in July 2011. Civil war broke out in December 2013 when Kiir accused Machar of plotting a coup.
An August 2015 peace deal was supposed to end the conflict. But the peace process has stalled while fighting has continued despite the establishment of a unity government.
This week’s clashes are the first between the army and former rebels in the capital — where the war broke out — since both established positions there in April as part of the peace agreement.
“This senseless violence is unacceptable and has the potential of reversing the progress made so far in the peace process,” Ban said.
South Sudan’s leaders must take “decisive action” to restore security in Juba and keep the violence from spreading to other parts of the country, Ban said.
The violence comes a day after the world’s youngest country marked its fifth independence anniversary.