The U.S. State Department announced Friday it would immediately enact restrictions on arms transfers to South Sudan.
Paul Sutphin, the State Department’s senior adviser on Sudan and South Sudan, said the decision will “restrict the flow of lethal material into South Sudan for all parties” and is part of a series of steps “to impose consequences on those who use violence to advance a political agenda.”
The restriction is enacted through the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), a set of U.S. laws that regulate the export and import of defense related articles and services.
“This is an action we can take with our law for people who require licenses from the United States to sell arms and material,” said Sutphin.
Companies and entities seeking a license to export defense materials to South Sudan will be denied under the new restrictions. This includes “American manufacturers or a company that uses American parts that are controlled under the ITAR,” said Sutphin.
U.S. law requires companies, entities or manufacturers seeking to export controlled products to register with the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls, an office in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs at the Department of State.
The law also requires an approval of an export license for all exports of a U.S.-controlled defense article or service, according to a State Department official.
The U.S. arms restriction is limited to U.S. jurisdiction, and will not directly affect weapons flows from neighboring countries.
The U.N. secretary-general's special adviser for the prevention of genocide, Adama Dieng, told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus this week that weapons are flowing into South Sudan through neighboring countries, including Kenya and Uganda.
The State Department hopes the U.S. trade restriction will encourage others, including the African Union and the regional bloc IGAD, to take similar measures.
“We need to impose consequences to those parties including the government, including the main armed opposition groups who have violated their commitment to stop fighting multiple times since they signed it,” said Sutphin.
United States officials under then-President Barack Obama and current President Donald Trump have argued that a United Nations led arms embargo could stem the flow of weapons into South Sudan. U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley told the U.N. Security Council last week an arms embargo could “slow the violence, slow the flow of arms and ammunition,” to South Sudan.
A U.S.-led resolution to impose additional sanctions and an arms embargo on South Sudan failed at the U.N. Security Council in December 2016.
The move was backed by seven of the 15 Security Council members, including Britain and France, but received eight abstentions, including one from Russia, whose top U.N. ambassador argued an embargo would not stabilize the country.
The U.S. arms restriction comes ahead of the second phase of the IGAD-led High Level Revitalization Forum, a peace initiative that is intended to revive the 2015 peace deal.
Sutphin, who will be at the talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, says he hopes the arms restriction will send a clear message to the warring parties, who have repeatedly violated cease-fire agreements since conflict erupted in December 2013.
“Issue No. 1 has to be taking the cessation of hostilities and really making it work,” said Sutphin. “Stopping the suffering and violence that have wracked South Sudan and have injured and killed so many people there.