China and Russia are resisting joining Western pressure on the UN Security Council to threaten Sudan and South Sudan with sanctions if the two countries fail to comply with demands to halt their escalating conflict.
The two Sudans split when the south seceded last year, and weeks of border fighting have raised fears that they are on the verge of an all-out war. They have failed to resolve a string of disputes over oil revenues and border demarcation.
Earlier this week, delegates from the 15-nation Security Council met at the US mission in New York to try to reach an agreement on amending a US-drafted resolution on the two Sudans that council members hope to put to a vote later this week.
After their discussions, the US circulated a revised draft resolution that threatens both Sudan and South Sudan with "additional measures" under Article 41 of the UN charter, which allows the council to impose economic and diplomatic sanctions on countries that ignore its decisions.
However, a diplomat said the "draft will probably change before it goes to a vote, which we hope will happen on Wednesday... China doesn't want any mention of Article 41".
Beijing, which has close trade relations with both Khartoum and Juba, has traditionally acted as Sudan's protector on the council, and for years has shielded it from international calls for sanctions over to its handling of conflicts, particularly in its western Darfur region.
Russia – which along with Beijing has protected Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by blocking two Security Council resolutions condemning the government crackdown on the country's uprising – is supporting China's push to water down the resolution and also dislikes the idea of mentioning Article 41 in the resolution, diplomats said. The article does not authorise military intervention.
On Monday, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made clear at a joint news conference with visiting Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti that Moscow has reservations about threatening the two Sudans with punitive measures.