Ambassador Rice: Good afternoon. Let me begin by speaking directly to the Syrian people. The United States stands with you, the Syrian people, and we will not rest until you and your bravery achieve your basic, universal human rights, to which all human beings are entitled. Today, we saw clearly which countries are prepared to support the people of Syria-and, indeed, the people of the entire region-as they struggle to attain a future of peace and democracy. And we saw which countries, for their narrow interests, do not. But let there be no doubt. The United States will continue, with partners around the world-partners particularly in the Arab world-to ratchet up the pressure on the Asad regime until finally the people’s voice prevails. We will not rest until that occurs.
This Council, today, again, had a sad moment, which will be recorded in its history, but there was a hopeful aspect to it as well. And that is that more and more countries are united in saying the violence must stop, change must come, there must be a democratic and peaceful transition. Thirteen members of this Council clearly and firmly made that point, and perhaps two more will one day come along-I hope not after too many more innocent Syrians have been killed. I’m happy to take a couple questions.
Reporter: Ambassador, what comes next? You said further measures, further pressure. Can you be more specific about what you think that might be please?
Ambassador Rice: Neil, we have, as the United States, as you know, put increasing sanctions, increasing pressure on the Syrian regime. We are certainly committed on a national basis to continue to intensify our pressure. We have worked with partners in Europe, in Turkey, in the broader Arab world towards that end. We will certainly be consulting with partners in the Arab League and on this Council in the days to come. I think it is fair to say that nobody is giving up. Nobody is turning our backs on the Syrian people. And we will find a way forward to affirm our support for the people of Syria.
Reporter: Ambassador, some believe and feel that it is due to the fact that the U.S. and Russia did not understand each other and did not agree outside of this whole-that this is the result of the double veto. So, A, tell us if you agree and B, tell us kindly, what is your understanding of Mr. Sergei Lavrov’s initiative, probably, in Damascus next week? And are you surprised particularly by the Chinese veto?
Ambassador Rice: I can’t answer the question of what Minister Lavrov’s visit intends or aims to achieve. I can say this: the members of this Council worked tirelessly, exhaustively over the last several days to try to come to consensus. We bent over backwards as co-sponsors to accommodate and meet the concerns of member of this Council. There were those who saw what seemed to me to be a phantom, that somehow this resolution might be construed as authorizing the use of force, even when it was patently obvious that that wasn’t the case. But just to underscore it, we wrote that into the resolution. There were some who wanted to pretend that this resolution imposed sanctions. It never did, never from the beginning in any other iterations. That became clear. There were members of this Council that were uncomfortable with outlining certain elements of the Arab League plan. We insisted that the Arab League initiative be supported. The text that was vetoed did that. But it did so in a way that was garnered-that was intended to garner consensus. It failed. We had many, many attempts, Raghida, up until the minute before we went into the vote to try to find common ground. And I want to say that we-the United States, Morocco, the Arab League, the co-sponsors-made every effort, and those that-no effort was good enough. And so countries took their decision.
There was discussion over the last couple of days, and we indicated, again, that we were interested in reaching consensus but not at the expense of doing violence to the fundamental purpose.
And this is to answer your question, Matt: What was unacceptable, first and foremost, was the amendments that would have rewritten the Arab League plans, both Arab League plans-the one of November 2nd, which both parties have agreed to and committed to but the Syrian government hasn’t implemented but which indeed the Russian Federation has supported. Now, months later, it’s to be revised and rewritten. That was unacceptable.
And it was also unacceptable to try to remove from the plan of the 22nd the timeline that was crucial, an integral aspect of the Arab League initiative. There were many other aspects-efforts to equate the opposition and their actions with those of the regime, which we thought were not only indefensible but reprehensible in their formulations. But they were also not offered during the course of the week when we were engaged in meaningful efforts at negotiations but rather at the 11th hour with a request that the vote be delayed until some indefinite point next week.
With people dying every day, with the regime escalating its violence in a horrific fashion, and the people of Homs under immediate assault, delay was not an option.