Ambassador Rice: Good afternoon, everyone. Let me provide you with a read-out of the Council’s meeting this morning with Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan. The Joint Special Envoy reviewed for the Security Council his efforts so far to address the crisis in Syria. He expressed gratitude for the recent Presidential Statement and for the Security Council unity that it represented. Joint Special Envoy Annan said that in his discussions with the Syrian regime, he emphasized the urgency of the situation and pressed the government to cease troop movements, cease the use of heavy weapons, and pull out of population centers. Mr. Annan reported that the Syrian foreign minister sent him a letter yesterday, in which he said that the Syrian military will begin immediately, and by April 10th will complete, the cessation of all forward deployment and use of heavy weapons and will complete its withdrawal from population centers. These are steps A through C in the Six-Point Plan, item 2.
Mr. Annan said that he wished that he had this confirmation of action sooner, in other words, that the April 10th deadline would ideally have been earlier than it is. But he urged the government of Syria to start immediately and to ensure that forces move no further into population centers. And, as he related, that commitment was provided by the Syrian authorities. Mr. Annan reported that he’s expecting details from the Syrian government very shortly on the other aspects of his Six-Point Plan, including key requests for humanitarian access, the two-hour daily humanitarian pause, as well as access for the media, and of course, the political process. Mr. Annan’s deputy, Nassar al-Qidwa, has also had constructive exchanges with the opposition to urge them to cease their operations within 48 hours of a complete cessation of government hostilities, in other words, their fulfillment of steps A through C.
Mr. Annan said that a DPKO team joined by some of his staff will travel again to Syria this week to continue preparations for a potential monitoring and supervisory mission of the UN. And finally, Mr. Annan asked the Security Council to support the April 10 deadline and, given the urgency of the situation, to begin consideration of a potential UN monitoring mission. Under-Secretary-General Ladsous then briefed in very short terms on DPKO’s early-stage contingency planning for such a monitoring mission. All members of the Security Council expressed full support for Joint Special Envoy Annan and called for his Six-Point Plan to be implemented immediately, including a political process leading to a transition that meets the aspirations of the Syrian people for democracy, a key point reiterated more than once by the Joint Special Envoy.
Some members of the Security Council expressed concern that the government of Syria not use the next days to intensify the violence and expressed some skepticism about the bona fides of the government in this regard. But, in general, Council members expressed a willingness to consider Mr. Annan’s plan for a monitoring mission if indeed a cessation of violence is achieved.
I’m happy to take a couple of questions.
Ambassador Rice: Excuse me. One at a time.
Reporter: Can you give us an idea of—did Mr. Ladsous make it clear how long it would take? I mean, that you could move rapidly to get a monitoring mission in there, how big it was, any of the details of what it would do?
Ambassador Rice: Let me, on the subject of Mr. Ladsous’s briefing, I think DPKO can provide you with the details of their thinking. Essentially, they’re looking at a phased approach with the aim of trying to get in a small core of initial monitors that might be drawn with the consent of governments from some of the missions in the nearby region. It will take some time to ramp up to full strength, and I think it better to give DPKO the opportunity to provide the details of their thinking.
Reporter: Was there any discussion—was there any discussion of the announcement by some of the Friends of Syria that they would begin to pay salaries to the Free Syrian Army or other rebels? And can you also say—the U.S. offered to provide communications equipment. Can you specify a little bit who would get it, whether it could have any lethal usage, and what safeguards are in place?
Ambassador Rice: Well, let me in my capacity as president be clear in saying, I think, if I’m not mistaken, only one delegation raised that issue. Most were focused on the contents of the Joint Special Envoy’s briefing today. From the U.S. point of view—now speaking in my national capacity—as you know, we announced our readiness not only to increase our humanitarian assistance now to $25 million but also to begin to provide non-lethal assistance to the opposition, including in the form of communications equipment. That communications equipment is by its nature and by its definition non-lethal, and we will continue to work with other partners in the Friends of Democratic Syria, as was agreed in Tunis, to strengthen our efforts to support the effectiveness and coherence of the opposition.
Reporter: Ambassador, can you clarify who is going to be actually monitoring the fulfillment of these promises from here until April 10th, given that you do not have a mechanism for peacekeeping or any such monitoring on the ground? And secondly, can you also clarify if there has been any type of preconditions or conditions attached by the Syrian government to this agreement for April 10 deadline for full-out and whether all the troops will go back to their barracks?
Ambassador Rice: Joint Special Envoy Annan, to answer your second question first, did not specify any preconditions nor was the Council aware of preconditions that had been put in front of that planned withdrawal. The action was to have begun yesterday, on April 1st, consistent with the commitment that Joint Special Envoy Annan received and be implemented over the course of the subsequent ten days. In terms of monitoring, I mean, you know the issue. There is no independent monitoring mechanism on the ground because that hasn’t been permitted by the circumstances, by the lack of violence, and by the posture of the Syrian authorities. There is also obviously a challenge with access for journalists and other independent observers, so we will need to rely on the same sources of information that we have been relying on over the course of the last many months—some of which are formal, some of which are informal—to assess the degree of implementation.
Reporter: Has Syria totally accepted the April 10th deadline? I mean, it’s said there is no hesitation, according to Annan?
Ambassador Rice: As I just said in answer to Raghida, as it was briefed to us, there were no conditions or preconditions specified by the Syrians that we’re aware of for implementation of the commitments that it made some days prior to April 1. Now, let’s be realistic. We’ve—now speaking in my national capacity—we have seen over the course of the last many months promises made and promises broken. We have seen commitments to end the violence followed by massive intensification of violence. So the United States, for one, would look at these commitments and say, yet again, that the proof is in the actions, not in the words. And past experience would lead us to be skeptical and to worry that, over the next several days, that rather than the diminution of the violence we might yet again see an escalation of the violence. We certainly hope that is not so. We hope that the Syrian authorities will implement fully the commitments that they have made without any conditions or codicils, and should they do so, we will expect the opposition to follow suit within 48 hours, as specified by Joint Special Envoy Annan.
Thank you very much.