"As I monitor the situation in South Sudan, I may take further action to support the security of US citizens, personnel, and property, including our Embassy, in South Sudan," Obama said in a communique to Congress as released by the White House. (Agencies)
Obama said 46 US military personnel were deployed by military aircraft to the area of Bor, South Sudan, on December 21 to conduct an operation to evacuate US citizens and personnel.
After the aircraft came under fire as they approached Bor, the operation was curtailed due to security considerations, and the aircraft and all military personnel onboard departed South Sudan without completing the evacuation, he said, adding that the purpose of this operation was to protect US citizens, personnel, and property.
Obama said this action has been directed consistent with his responsibility to protect US citizens both at home and abroad, and in furtherance of US national security and foreign policy interests.
Earlier in the day, Obama, who is spending his year end vacation in Hawaii, was updated on the situation in South Sudan. This followed a meeting the National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, held with senior members of the national security team and US personnel in Juba and elsewhere in the region, a White House official said.
United States was conducted in coordination with United Nations and in consultation with the South Sudanese government. "US citizens and citizens from our partner nations were flown from Bor to Juba on UN and US civilian helicopters," State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said.
US and United Nations, which has the lead for securing Bor airport in South Sudan, took steps to ensure fighting factions were aware these flights were a humanitarian mission, she said.
"US government is doing everything possible to ensure the safety and security of United States citizens in South Sudan. We are working with our allies around the world to connect with and evacuate US citizens as quickly and safely as possible. For their safety and security, we will not outline specific evacuation plans," she said
So far, US has evacuated approximately 380 US officials and private citizens and approximately 300 citizens of other countries to Nairobi and other locations outside South Sudan on four chartered flights and five military aircraft, Psaki said.
A day earlier US Secretary of State, John Kerry, called South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, just after midnight in Washington to discuss ways to stop the violence in South Sudan.
Kiir said he had productive discussions with the visiting Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) ministerial delegation, to whom he had expressed his willingness to engage in peaceful dialogue and said he was open to negotiations without preconditions, Psaki said.
Secretary Kerry emphasized that only through leadership and political dialogue will the challenges facing South Sudan be resolved. "Kerry made clear that continued violence endangers the vision set forth at the time of South Sudan's independence," she said, adding that the Secretary said he was sending US Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, Ambassador Donald Booth, to the region to support regional diplomatic efforts to advance a solution.
"Kerry and Kiir discussed the need to prevent ethnic violence, their concern for the welfare of thousands of internally displaced persons fleeing the conflict, as well as for the safety of US citizens in South Sudan, and they agreed to speak again soon," Psaki said.
"As I monitor the situation in South Sudan, I may take further action to support the security of US citizens, personnel, and property, including our Embassy, in South Sudan," Obama said in a communique to Congress as released by the White House.