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UN chief strongly urges immediate end to hostilities in South Sudan

UNITED NATIONS, July 11 -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday said that he was "shocked and appalled by the heavy fighting" that is currently taking place in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, and strongly urged the leaders of the youngest country in the world to "do everything within their power" to de-escalate the hostilities.

"I strongly urge President Kiir and First Vice-President Riek Machar to do everything within their power to de-escalate the hostilities immediately and to order their respective forces to disengage and withdraw to their bases," Ban said in a statement issued here via his spokesman.

"This senseless violence is unacceptable and has the potential of reversing the progress made so far in the peace process," the statement said.

United Nations compounds and protection of civilians sites in Juba have been caught in the cross-fire, the secretary-general noted. "I am deeply frustrated that despite commitments by South Sudan's leaders, fighting has resumed."

"They must take decisive action to regain control of the security situation in Juba; prevent the spread of violence to other parts of the country; guarantee the safety and security of civilians, United Nations and other personnel; and genuinely commit themselves to the full implementation of the peace agreement," said the statement.

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan continues to protect displaced civilians and engage all stakeholders in order to end the fighting and restore security, the statement added.

The UN Security Council is expected to meet behind closed doors on Sunday afternoon in an emergency session to discuss the current situation in South Sudan, where fighting in the capital Juba has left more than 110 soldiers killed.

South Sudan has canceled this year's independence celebrations due to the economic crunch resulting from more than two years of civil conflict. It won independence on July 9, 2011 from Sudan after more than two decades of war that ended in a bitter divorce.

The country again plunged into conflict in December 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup, which the latter denied, leading to a cycle of retaliatory killings.

President Kiir and former rebel leader and now First Vice President Machar signed a peace deal in August that paved way for the formation of the transitional unity government to end more than two years of civil conflict. (PNA/Xinhua)
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