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Ambassador Rice’s Remarks at the Security Council Stakeout on the Veto of a UN Security Council Resolution on Syria

U.S. Mission to the United Nations, New York, NY



Ambassador Rice: Good evening. I hadn’t intended to get a head start on everyone else but since—this has been quite a sad day, most especially for the people of Syria, but also for this Security Council.

The people of Syria, who seek nothing more than the opportunity to achieve their universal human rights and to see their aspirations for freedom and liberty achieved, have been slapped in the face by several members of this Security Council today.

And as I said in the chamber, I think the people of Syria and the people of the region have had today the opportunity to determine who among us stand with the people of the region in their quest for a better future, and who will go to whatever lengths are necessary to defend dictators who are on the warpath.

I am happy to take a few questions.

Reporter: Ambassador Rice, is this a failure of the European policy in the Security Council? Because they practically emptied the resolution of teeth, or is this, have they been duped by Russia, and China, and the BRICs? Or has this exposed China, Russia, and the rest of the BRIC countries? You did say there was a ‘cheap ruse’ of reaction, basically, by the Russians. What do you expect next? Can you explain these three, four elements of what I just asked you from your point of view as the U.S.?

Ambassador Rice: Well first of all, the United States’ view has been, and remains, that this Council ought to pass a resolution that contains real sanctions and that is what we proudly co-sponsored in August, and what we think is still warranted. Now, I’m not going to sit here and Monday-morning quarterback, or Monday-evening quarterback, how this has unfolded. We supported this resolution because we thought it was a step, had it been passed, in the right direction.

But the fact that, after days, if not a couple of weeks, of strenuous effort on the part of the Europeans to achieve the consensus that ought to have been possible, that that effort of goodwill on their part was met with the response today, I think, says the most about the people who were unable to support this resolution and those who cast the veto.

Reporter: Thank you Madam Ambassador. Do you think that diplomacy has reached a dead-end regarding how the international community should deal in regard with the situation in Syria?

Ambassador Rice: No, I don’t think diplomacy or pressure has reached a dead-end. I mean, the fact of the matter is, despite the vote that we saw today in the Council, the majority of members supported the resolution. The majority of members would have supported a sanctions resolution. And the countries in the region are, every day, coalescing and raising their voices against what is transpiring in Syria. This is not, as some would like to pretend, a Western issue. We had countries all over the world supporting this resolution today, and we have countries throughout the region who’ve been very clear that the brutality of the Asad regime has to end and that the behavior of the regime is absolutely intolerable.

Reporter: Madam Ambassador, would you consider keeping on your reset diplomacy strategy with Russia considering the result it gives you, at least at the Security Council?

Ambassador Rice: Well, I’m not sure it “gives us,” but let us say, given the result—look, we have many, many issues on which we work very constructively with Russia—from non-proliferation to arms control to Iran to North Korea, and many, many others—and will continue to do so. On this issue, we and others had a fundamental disagreement with Russia and other countries. And we think history will bear out who was on the right side and who was on the wrong side. But they are a country able to make their sovereign choices and we are able to make ours, and we can still work together and cooperate on a vast range of issues.

Reporter: Yeah, sure, Ambassador Rice, in the chamber you said, this is not about Libya, it’s about countries that want to sell weapons to Syria. And I guess what I wonder is, is the countries, say the IBSA countries, countries like Brazil and others, do you think that what happened on Libya, that a resolution was passed, and then NATO bombed—from the point of view of those countries, things went further than they authorized—do you really think it had no impact on this? Or do you think all of those countries are selling weapons?

Ambassador Rice: I think this is an excuse. I think the vast majority of countries, even today on the Council that were not able to vote in favor of this text, know that this was a resolution that, in substance, was unobjectionable. And their decisions to vote as they did may have had a lot less to do with the text than it did with some effort to maintain solidarity among a certain group of countries. So I think Libya has been beat to death, overused, and misused as an excuse for countries not to take up their responsibilities with respect to Syria.

Reporter: Just a quick follow-up, Ambassador, because—a good follow up—because, you know, the language you used in describing the Russian behavior today, you know, “Cheap ruse”—this is strong language. But then you’re saying here we’re going to go on business as usual and…

Ambassador Rice: I didn’t say business as usual. I said we are two countries with different interests that disagree on this issue.

Reporter: Take it from here on, in regards to Syria.

Ambassador Rice: Well, first of all, the United States has been very strong and unequivocal in its leadership, on a national basis and on a global basis, in condemning and sanctioning the Asad regime. And we are going to continue, as I said in the Council, to maintain our efforts and maintain pressure on the Asad regime.

It is on the wrong side of history. It is not going to get what it seeks by the continual repression and killing and imprisoning of its people. It doesn’t work and it won’t succeed, and sooner or later that will be self-evident.

Thank you.

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