Ambassador Rice: First of all, happy holidays. I want to address three topics. I want to begin with the resolution that we adopted today extending the mandate of MONOC. This was an important resolution which extended the mandate through the end of May, required a comprehensive strategic review of the operations of MONUC, its support for ongoing operations and stressed the inherent importance, the fundamental importance of the protection of civilians. It also indicated that after that period we expect to extend the mandate for a further 12 months.
This was an important resolution because it underscores the Council’s firm commitment that protection of civilians be the principal and primary focus of MONUC. It also puts strict conditionality on future MONUC support to the FARDC, conditioned on prior and effective joint planning as well as assurances that the operations and those conducting the operations are acting in accordance with international humanitarian law.
Secondly, I would like to speak briefly about Sudan. We are deeply concerned by the decision of the national assembly of Sudan to pass a referendum law that is completely inconsistent with that which was agreed by the NCP and the SPLM. This violates and is inconsistent with the terms of the December 13th agreement reached by President Bashir and First Vice President Salva Kiir. It erodes confidence in the NCP’s readiness to implement the elements of the CPA. It is destabilizing and it’s most unfortunate.
We look to the government of Sudan not to enact that law finally without revising it so that it reflects the agreement reached with the SPLM and to ensure that all the remaining agreements, such as that related to Abyei, put before the National Assembly are unaltered as this one was unilaterally, resulting in the exclusion of the SPLM from this process.
Thirdly, I want to talk about the resolution we just adopted imposing sanctions on Eritrea. This was an African initiative. It was the consequence of a decision taken by the African Union. It was consistent with a prior resolution passed by this Council, 1862, that demanded prompt action by Eritrea with respect to Djibouti. Nearly a year later, that action has not been forthcoming. The Council acted today, not hastily, not aggressively, but with the aim quite sincerely of encouraging Eritrea to do as this Council and so many of its members have repeatedly called upon it to do, which is not to continue actions which destabilize Somalia, to halt assistance to those violent elements in Somalia that are working to overthrow the government and attacking AMISOM peacekeepers and to resolve peacefully and in accordance with Resolution 1862, the border skirmish and dispute with Djibouti.
From the United States’ point of view, let me say that we have for many, many months sought a constructive dialogue with the government of Eritrea. We have sought to encourage quietly the government of Eritrea to take the steps that it claims it intends to take, but it will not take, and has not taken. And we still hope frankly that they will. We do not see this as the door closing on Eritrea, but on the contrary, we view this as another opportunity for Eritrea to play a more responsible and constructive role in the region. We did not come to this decision with any joy – or with anything other than a desire to support the stability of peace in the region.
The United States stands with the people of Eritrea who have fought long and hard for their independence and to build a country in which we have great hope for the future.
Reporter: Madam Ambassador, can you tell us about (inaudible) the figures to be included in the committee? What does it mean that the political and military leadership of Eritrea will be subject to sanctions?
Ambassador Rice: Well obviously that will be something for the committee to decide. There has been a lot of work done by Somalia Monitoring Group and that sanctions committee that has shared with the Council its recommendations as to who ought to be considered for designation under the Somalia regime, and now we will look in addition at who ought to be considered based on the criteria in the resolution we just passed.
Reporter: Ambassador on a fourth matter: what does the US believe is the appropriate Security Council response to the Guinea report?
Ambassador Rice: Well as you know, the Security Council is currently discussing the Guinea report and we will see where that comes out. The United States is outraged by the atrocities that have been committed in Guinea. We think that absolutely there has to be accountability. We welcome the good work that went into the report of the Commission of Inquiry, we urge all parties to refrain from any further actions that could exacerbate the situation, and we are considering the recommendations in the report very carefully with an aim to ensure that there is accountability.
What the Council does and what may occur as a consequence of this may or may not be directly related. Because Guinea is a signatory to the ICC it could be subject to the inquiries of the prosecutor, irrespective of what the Council does or doesn’t do.
Reporter: On Congo, does the U.S. support the call by many human rights groups to (inaudible) a special rapporteur on human rights issues in the Congo (inaudible) at the Human Rights Council, where the U.S. is a member? I also wanted to ask you on the budget, which is probably going to be — it’s happening today. Your two most recent predecessors were highly critical of the U.N. budget as being piecemeal, as being sort of broken into pieces. Are you satisfied by your mission’s involvement so far in the budget process? And what would you like to see come out of it?
Ambassador Rice: I’m certainly satisfied with my mission’s involvement in the budget process. We’ve been working very hard both to ensure that there is efficiency, that there isn’t excess spending, and that the critical missions that this Council has supported, and in which we have a significant stake, have the resources that they need to function effectively, including the resources for security.
So we have looked at this budget with an aim to maximize restraint, but to approach it with a scalpel rather than a blunter instrument. And while the negotiations are still going on and it would be premature to come to any clear conclusions, we hope that this process will conclude with a constructive outcome, and we’re certainly pleased to have participated in it.
With respect to Congo, we have expressed on numerous occasions our grave concern about the gross violations of human rights suffered by the people of Congo, particularly women and children. This resolution goes quite some distance to trying to address that, as did 1888 and other resolutions on the protection of civilians. Obviously, in Geneva we are constantly interested in and committed to mechanisms that can support both investigation and accountability.
Thank you all. Happy Holidays. Hope you enjoy