The UN Security Council is committed "to make every effort" to end the fighting between Sudan and South Sudan and bring the two parties back to the negotiation table to solve their differences through dialogue, Susan Rice, the U.S. UN ambassador who holds the rotating council presidency for April, told reporters Tuesday.
Rice made the statement while speaking to the press here after closed-door council meeting on the current tensions between Sudan and South Sudan.
"Council members expressed grave concerns over the situation and committed to make every effort to convince the parties to cease hostilities and return to the negotiating table," she said.
Clashes have spread along the border between Sudan and South Sudan, reports said on Monday. The conflict is the closest the two countries have come to a full-scale war since the south seceded from the north in July 2011.
South Sudan and Sudan have been locked in disputes with the alarming situation being manifested most recently by the seizure and occupation of the town of Higlig and its oil fields in Sudan by South Sudan's army, the SPLA.
The United Nations and the African Union have called on South Sudan to withdraw from the town of Heglig, but Juba insists it has a claim to the territory. Sudan has threatened to retaliate.
"Council members reiterated their demand for a complete, immediate and unconditional end to all fighting, and the withdrawal of the SPLA from Higlig," Rice said.
Meanwhile, Rice said that the Security Council also discussed possible sanctions on the two neighboring countries if they failed to end the fighting that was seen on the verge of a full-scale war.
"Council members discussed ways to leverage the influence of the council to press the parties to take these steps, and included in that a discussion potentially of sanctions," she said.
For her part, Agnes Oswaha, South Sudan's UN ambassador, told reporters here Tuesday that her country is for peace and is convinced that disputes can be resolved through dialogue.
"We believe that the current crisis can be resolved through negotiated and agreed upon solutions," Oswaha said.
"We are not going to go for the offense because we are for peace," she said. "However, we will stand on the defense and defend our country."
The Sudanese UN envoy did not speak to reporters on Tuesday.
On Monday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced his "deep concern over continued hostilities" between Sudan and South Sudan, and called on both parties to "end the fighting immediately."
"The secretary-general reiterates his deep concern over continued hostilities between Sudan and South Sudan, including its impact on innocent civilians," said a statement issued here by Ban 's spokesman.
"He calls on both parties to end the fighting immediately and to respect international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians," the statement said.