Ambassador Rice: It’s pitiful and deeply regrettable that again today Russia and China, for the third time, have vetoed a resolution that garnered the overwhelming support of this Security Council. The Security Council has put its best efforts behind the UN mission in Syria, and we commend the brave men and women of that mission for their dedicated service. Yet it was plain from the beginning that if this Council were unwilling or unable to back-up that UN mission with the tools at our disposal—even the basic tools of political support to indicate that if our decisions are not adhered to then there will be consequences—meant that this mission could not succeed.
Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan made it very clear that what he sought from this Council was a unified message of consequences on the parties for non-compliance. The Secretary General of the organization repeatedly appealed for this Council to assume its responsibilities under the UN charter, use Chapter VII, and make it clear that there will be consequences for non-compliance. That is what the resolution that was vetoed today aimed to do. It aimed, in the first order, to provide the UN monitors and civilians on the ground with the political support of this Security Council, the last best chance they had for their mission to potentially succeed. Instead, we have seen the situation—the status quo—persist as the situation deteriorates. And as I said in the Council, the status quo is by no means static. It is a rapidly deteriorating conflict that is costing hundreds of lives each day and that threatens to engulf the region in a wider war. That is the consequence of the third veto by our colleagues on the Council today.
I am happy to take a few questions.
Reporter: Ambassador Rice, another delegation has proposed a 30-day extension of the UN monitoring mission in Syria. Is this something that the U.S. could go along with? And under what circumstances would you consider renewing that?
Ambassador Rice: We’ve been very clear that a rollover of the United Nations mission without it being tied either to the potential for consequences for non-compliance or to an improvement in the situation on the ground doesn’t make any sense. That’s in effect what the Russian draft would have done with some additional verbiage, and I think it was clear that, as they chose not to put their text to a vote, they didn’t have nine votes for the text. Now, we might be prepared to consider a final, brief extension of the mission should that be proposed if it would allow for the monitors and the civilian staff to withdraw safely and orderly and make it clear that unless and until circumstances dramatically change—that the government suddenly and finally adheres to its obligations under the Six-Point Plan and conditions change on the ground—that it is not viable for the mission to continue.
Reporter: Thank you. Ambassador Rice, what are—what is the message that the failure of the resolution sends? And what other steps are there? What’s next steps in terms of consequences other than unilateral sanctions from each country? Is there anything else the UN can do?
Ambassador Rice: Well, I think sadly the message that it sends, as I said in the Council, is that two permanent members are willing to defend Assad and protect him to the bitter end, even if would seem logically not to be in their interests. I think that the consequence of today’s action is that the situation will continue to deteriorate and that the best efforts of Kofi Annan and this Council to stem the fighting and to launch a political process have not thus far succeeded. From the United States’ point of view, as I said in my explanation of vote, we’ll continue to support the Syrian people. We’ll continue to support any prospect for a peaceful political transition. We’ll continue to provide humanitarian assistance and aid. But we and others increasingly will have no choice but to look to partnerships and actions outside of this Council to protect the Syrian people.
Reporter: Ambassador, you mentioned concern about Syria’s chemical weapons. How—in your estimation, how likely is it that he will unleash those on the population?
Ambassador Rice: We have made it repeatedly clear that any use or transfer of chemical weapons would result in those responsible being held accountable. I think it’s vitally important that there be no ambiguity about the severity of such a step. Indeed, we have said repeatedly that it is the responsibility of the government to secure its stockpiles, and we wish to see that that is indeed the case.
Reporter: Ambassador, do the two vetoes mean that diplomatic efforts to resolve this here at the UN are over? And how will history look upon what happened today?
Ambassador Rice: Well, I think history will judge those that three times have blocked Council action quite harshly. These resolutions—even this third one did not itself impose sanctions. It simply said that, should the situation persist, sanctions might be the next step within a short period of time. It merely took the decisions that this Council has already made and put them under Chapter VII. It merely took the Action Plan agreed in Geneva by all the permanent members and made it more binding under Chapter VII. So, I think history will judge harshly those that prevented this Council repeatedly from assuming even its most basic responsibilities.
Reporter: I wanted to ask you. You spoke a lot about Russia and China. What about the abstentions of Pakistan and South Africa? Specifically, South Africa said it was a one-sided resolution because it would only sanction the government or had no option of actually sanctioning the opposition to get them to comply with the Six Point Plan. What do you make of that criticism?
Ambassador Rice: First of all, the resolution was balanced. It did contain obligations for the opposition under Chapter VII—as does the Annan Plan itself and the Action Plan—and it made clear that, consistent with the Annan plan, the first step has to be the government, which accepted this obligation to halt the use of heavy weapons and to redeploy its forces away from population centers. That is the heart of the Annan plan. That is what this Council has endorsed. Sadly, we have not backed up that endorsement with the next steps, which the Joint Special Envoy and the Secretary General urged, which were consequences for non-compliance. So, the resolution as drafted was fully consistent with the Six Point Plan, with what Kofi Annan and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had asked of the Council, and surely at the eleventh hour it wasn’t necessary to rewrite the Annan plan