Ambassador Rice: I will, in my capacity of President of the Council, give you a readout of the two sessions we had this morning. The first related to Sudan and South Sudan. The second related to Myanmar.
Beginning with the Sudans. This morning we heard from Assistant Secretary-General Edmund Mulet on Abyei and the volatile situation on the border between Sudan and South Sudan. Juba has confirmed it that it has seized Heglig. This is a very serious development, which comes in the context of repeated violations over the last several weeks of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of both countries. Council members stressed that the SPLA must withdraw immediately. And Sudan must stop aerial bombardments and incursions into South Sudan. Both sides must return to talks and cease all hostilities.
The Secretary-General, it was reported, has spoken to President Salva Kiir of South Sudan and encouraged South Sudan to withdraw. President Kiir has responded that South Sudan is taking these actions in self-defense. The Secretary-General is also seeking to engage senior authorities in Khartoum. Council members expressed very serious concern about the situation and are working on a statement and additional actions reflecting that concern.
With respect to Myanmar, the Council discussed the April 1st parliamentary by-election. Special Advisor Nambiar explained that the election proceeded in a transparent, credible, and peaceful manner. While some minor irregularities were reported, Mr. Nambiar said there were no indications that these had affected the outcome. He told Council members that the election of opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) candidates—including Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi—to Parliament offers a historic opportunity for more inclusive political dialogue in the country.
Special Advisor Nambiar said the United Nations would continue to promote democratic reform, encourage national reconciliation, and support Myanmar’s economic development. He explained the Secretary-General plans to visit the country later this month.
Council members welcomed the successful by-election as a historic and critical step on the path to consolidating and strengthening Myanmar’s democratic reforms. They praised the government and the opposition for their conduct of the by-election and for their commitment to moving the country forward.
Council members emphasized that Myanmar’s reforms were still fragile and nascent and in need of the international community’s support. Additionally, a number of members voiced concern about ongoing fighting in some ethnic minority areas and the continued detention of hundreds of political prisoners.
With that, let me take a few questions please.
Reporter: Question on Syria, Madame President. How seriously do you take the latest assurances by Asad on the ceasefire? And are you at all concerned that the Syrian government said that it will proportionally respond in kind to any attack it perceives from the opposition?
Ambassador Rice: Well, let’s be clear what’s going on. Fighting is still raging as we speak, reflecting what has been an intensification of the violence that the Syria government has pursued since April 1st when it committed to cease all hostile actions by yesterday. Its commitments, therefore, have little if any credibility—and I am, let me clarify, speaking in my national capacity—given that track record. We will await with interest the Syrian regime’s posture tomorrow and receive Joint Special Envoy Annan’s report. But what Syria committed to in this letter, yet again, is not and cannot in our judgement be construed as compliance with the Six-Point Peace Plan—or even the limited three steps (a), (b), and (c), which they were to have completed by yesterday. So the burden remains squarely on the Syrian regime and not the opposition, in the first instance, to meet its obligations in full and visibly under the Annan plan.
The caveats in the letter are worrying and yet again cast into doubt the credibility of any such commitments. But nothing casts more doubt on the credibility of the commitments than the fact that commitments have been made and made and made and broken and broken and broken.
Reporter: On Sudan. Given the unity of the Council up to now on the Sudan, is there any desire for stronger measures against either of the two countries?
Ambassador Rice: Well, I think as you know on the issues of Sudan and South Sudan in recent weeks, fortunately the Council has been able to issue a number of statements that represent increased unity. For months before that, it was more difficult. I think now we are all seized with the gravity of the situation, therefore the urgency of trying to produce an initial statement today. And I think we will continue to work in the coming days on perhaps a more comprehensive product that we hope will have a salutory impact on both sides and have—and persuade both sides that it is absolutely imperative that the fighting stop, that they pull back their forces and return to the negotiating table.
Reporter: One more question—is it possible? Was there any discussion of Kachin state?
Ambassador Rice: I’m sorry?
Reporter: Kachin state, where there was no election held. There was—the election was held in the rest of the country, but in Kachin state, voting was suspended. There’s been some problem of getting aid in. Just—I wanted to know if there was any discussion and what the Council thinks of that?
Ambassador Rice: That was briefed to the Council, and various member states expressed concern about Kachin.