Reporter: Today’s the deadline date for Sudan, for them to come to the talks. And they haven’t been to the talks.
Ambassador Rice: They’re not there yet.
Ambassador Rice: We got what I would characterize as a mixed assessment from Haile Menkarios on the compliance with the various provisions of Resolution 2046. On the positive side, the level of violence seems to have dropped significantly, particularly over the last week to ten days, including no more aerial bombardments since the 5th or the 6th of May. Although they remained poised — locked and loaded, one might say — on the various parts of the border. The decision of South Sudan to withdraw its police forces from Abyei, which has been verified and completed, is a very positive step. It’s very important — and all Council members were united in insisting — that Sudan withdraw its forces immediately and unconditionally. The return to the table is obviously a very important part of this, and Mbeki and Menkarios and others are in the region talking to both parties, trying to facilitate a return to the table. It is frankly not a surprise that it will not happen necessarily on the day we decree, but the aim is that it happen as soon as possible without any further delay and do so consistent with the work that Mbkei and Menkarios as trying to do.
Reporter: So because of the mixed signals, then you’re holding back from any immediate action?
Ambassador Rice: Well, I think that frankly this was the first assessment provided to the Council. It’s important that we have a common baseline understanding of what’s going on. The aim of the resolution was not to punish. That wasn’t the objective, although it provided for that potentially. The aim is for the parties to stop fighting and to return to the table, and while not everything that has been demanded by the Council has been fully complied with, the situation today is somewhat better than it was two weeks ago when the resolution was passed.
Reporter: So you’re going to give them some more time?
Ambassador Rice: It’s not a matter of giving them time. It’s a matter of accomplishing the tasks in the resolution, putting maximum pressure on the parties to do that. They know what their obligations are, and we’re supporting all the efforts of Menkarios and Mbeki to accomplish that.
Reporter: What about talks with SPLM-North? I’m sorry if you’ve addressed this, but Sudan has said that they don’t they think the resolution can force them — they’ve said that no one can make them talk to SPLM-North about Southern Kordofan?
Ambassador Rice: Well, the resolution makes clear that this is part of the African Union Roadmap, and it is a requirement. The reality is that, as we all agree in there, it is impossible to separate what is happening from Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile from the larger conflict between North and South. And the North would be wise to return to the table with the SPLM-North, to allow humanitarian access, which was discussed in there as a matter of enormous urgency given the onslaught of the rainy season. And the North needs to know — and the SPLM-North needs to know — that they have obligations in this regard under the resolution.
Reporter: Ambassador, quickly on Syria. A growing concern about the monitors, several near misses now. You’ve said you may not wait the 90 days if you’re not — if they don’t have free movement, if you’re not happy with how the mission is going.
Ambassador Rice: There are kind of different issues here. One is the very worrying recent spate of attacks in and around the monitors — whether they were the targets or not is not always easy to determine. The other is the extent to which the government or the opposition are actively obstructing their freedom of movement. I think those are two different things. But clearly we’re concerned for the safety of the monitors — that was one of the issues we were most mindful of in the decision to deploy unarmed monitors into what was clearly not a cessation of violence. And so we’ll continue to monitor it carefully.
Reporter: But how can they monitor a cessation if it’s not there?
Ambassador Rice: They are not. It is not there. But violence has come down somewhat, and that needs to be acknowledged