NEW YORK - The United States warned Thursday of possible new sanctions on South Sudanese leaders as President Salva Kiir snubbed talks in New York on the nine-month conflict wracking his country.
Instead, Kiir sent his foreign minister to join the discussion on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
"There was a lot of disappointment expressed in the meeting that Salva Kiir, who is New York, did not attend the meeting," a senior State Department official told reporters.
"Several of the attendees... made a point of noting that Salva Kiir was not there," the official added, asking not to be named.
Washington has already imposed sanctions on several South Sudanese from both the government and the rebels, and more could be on the way.
"All of the parties who are involved in the negotiations have come to the conclusion that if the warring parties do not take this seriously, then we have to levy more sanctions on them," the official said.
The official stressed that the east Africa regional bloc, known as IGAD, which has been mediating sputtering peace talks, shared the view that more sanctions may be necessary.
In August, Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar signed a new ceasefire deal - the fourth since fighting began nine months ago - aiming to forge a unity government by October 9.
"The important point here is that the neighbours and the IGAD negotiators also have to be an active participant in the sanctions regime," the State Department official said.
"They have indicated that they actually are at a place where if these negotiations do not move forward that they're willing also to impose sanctions on both sides." The peace talks resumed in Ethiopia on Monday, mediators said, as sporadic fighting continued to rage between rebel and government fighters in the oil-rich country.
Fighting broke out in the world's youngest nation in December 2013 following a clash between Kiir's troops and fighters loyal to Machar.
The war spread rapidly across the country and has been marked by widespread human rights abuses and atrocities by both sides.