Ambassador Rice: Good afternoon everyone. We just, as you know, heard an update from Special Envoy Haile Menkerios on the implementation of Resolution 2046 regarding Sudan and South Sudan. The United States had hoped that the signing of the MOU for humanitarian access to Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states would result in assistance swiftly reaching the hundreds of thousands of those in desperate need. Unfortunately, that is not yet the case.
We continue to receive very disturbing reports that tens of thousands of people have become newly displaced due to renewed fighting in the Two Areas, and, without the required humanitarian access, this is likely to increase as the dry season nears. The deepening humanitarian crisis in the Two Areas is profoundly unacceptable. It’s crucial that the Government of Sudan and the Tripartite partners redouble their efforts to implement immediately the Memorandum of Understanding on humanitarian access in order to alleviate the suffering in the Two Areas.
Given the severity of the humanitarian crisis, a business-as-usual approach, which is what we seem to sense from Khartoum, is intolerable. Sudan has a responsibility to care for its own people in the Two Areas, as elsewhere, and it should do so with the urgency that this emergency situation requires.
With respect to the other elements of resolution 2046, we are, of course, well past the August 2 deadline. As we near September 22, when President Mbeki is to table his report to the African Union Peace and Security Council, the United States is deeply concerned about the apparent lack of urgency exhibited by the parties in implementing Resolution 2046 fully. In particular, Sudan’s continued refusal to accept the AU High-level Implementation Panel’s November 2011 map – as required by this Council and by the AU Roadmap – calls into question Khartoum’s seriousness. Its refusal has prevented the establishment of a Safe Demilitarized Border Zone and the deployment of the Joint Border Verification Monitoring Mechanism, and it risks the resumption of outright conflict.
It’s equally disappointing that the Government of Sudan maintains that it will not implement the provisional oil agreement until all other outstanding issues have been agreed. It’s our view that at a minimum, the parties should work closely now with the oil companies to take the technical steps required to ensure that oil can start flowing as soon as a final political decision is reached.
Finally, it is the U.S. view that this Council must continue to play actively its role in demanding full compliance from the parties and maintaining the pressure on the parties to meet their obligations under Resolution 2046.
I’m happy to take a couple questions.
Reporter: First a question on Sudan, and maybe come back afterwards for one on Syria if that alright. On Sudan, most of your comments were criticizing Khartoum and things that they’ve failed to do. What specifically are you concerned—you did say later both parties need to comply. What specific concerns do you have about the South and where they are not fully in compliance?
Ambassador Rice: Well, I mean, what I provided was what we believed to be an objective assessment of the relative issues on the table and the relative responsibilities. Obviously, both sides have obligations, and we want to see both sides fully meet their commitments under 2046. But at this stage, we have the crucial issue of the map and establishment of the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone. The Government of South Sudan has accepted the map and the Government of Khartoum has not to date, and that, as President Mbeki has said and Haile Menkerios has said today, is an issue of utmost concern.
We are very, very focused on and concerned about the situation in the Two Areas, and that of course is a matter that is principally a matter between the government in Khartoum and the SPLM-North. In that instance, again, we have the Tripartite plan, we have a commitment in principle to an MOU, but its implementation has been delayed. And while we express concern in the Council that the Tripartite partners themselves have an obligation to show utmost urgency—and some have done so more than others and we continue to be concerned about that—it’s of course the Government of Sudan that has the sovereign responsibility to care for its people and to provide humanitarian access. And the delays that we’ve seen—not just frankly over the last couple weeks or few weeks since the MOU was signed but over the last many months—is of grave concern, and it is a point that we wish to emphasize.
So, we have a number of issues that remain to be resolved, as you know—on oil, on borders, on Abyei—and we look to both sides to meet their commitments. But at this point, the relative responsibility for implementation needs to be outlined on a factual basis, and that’s what I’ve done.
Reporter: Madame Ambassador, as a follow up to what you’ve just said. On the humanitarian aid going into Blue Nile and South Kordofan, what specifically is the road block to getting this in? You’ve intimated that it’s the Sudanese government or they’re saying that security is not good enough. What was Mr. Menkerios’ assessment? And also how serious is the Security Council’s threat of further action and possible sanctions if the September 22 deadline isn’t met?
Ambassador Rice: To your first question about the impediments, we have essentially an agreement in principle. The AU and the Tripartite parties reached agreement for the Government to allow access on the one hand and the SPLM-North to allow action on the other hand—access. And of course, an agreement on paper is not implementation on the ground, and there have been several steps that the Tripartite parties as well as the government need to take to operationalize this agreement in principle as a reality on the ground. And I think that Special Envoy Menkerios gave an assessment that basically said, on the one hand, this is the government’s responsibility. It’s the sovereign responsible for its own people and this is an emergency and they need to act with urgency. That was his principle message. He also acknowledged that it has not been smooth sailing to every extent with respect to the Tripartite parties getting their act together to be full partners in the implementation. And we heard him urge that this move forward and that all three aspects—or three members—of the Tripartite show equal commitment and urgency to implementing these arrangements. And the United States reinforced that point of view.
With respect to the Council’s readiness to take action in the event of non-compliance, we of course had the very clear statement that was adopted unanimously in resolution 2046 under Chapter VII in which the Council made plain that if either party or any party fails to fulfill its obligations—their binding obligations—that the Council is ready to take action under Article 41 of the Charter. Our PRST that we issued just last week reiterates that readiness. And so I don’t want to get into speculating about what will or will not happen over the coming weeks and how the Council would respond to the actions of the parties, but I think the parties should be under no illusion that the Council remains united in its commitment to implementation of Resolution 2046. Our aim is not to impose sanctions. That’s not the purpose. The purpose is to spur the parties to meet their obligations and to create a foundation for lasting peace between North and South and, of course, to resolve the issues in the Two Areas. And that’s our hope, and that’s our aim.
Reporter: On the Two Areas, if you don’t mind. Sudan has said that it’s against any delivery of aid by air—that it says everything must be by land through El Obeid. It’s obviously against any delivery from the South. Does the U.S. think it should be—is there some kind of—do you agree with those two positions that they have? And I also wanted to ask you about Darfur, if you don’t mind, also on Sudan. Is the U.S. aware of this declaration of military rule or twelve-hour overnight curfew for the next month in Darfur that was announced by Sudan? And what do you think of it?
Ambassador Rice: I haven’t heard of the latter, with respect to Darfur. With—I think the issue with respect to the Two Areas remains the same. The concern is about providing adequate access for humanitarian actors, and I don’t think it’s worthwhile for governments sitting back here speaking from New York to get into the fine details of how that’s best implemented. I think that’s an issue for the humanitarian implementers, the humanitarian actors working with both the SPLM-North and the government of Khartoum. In different seasons, the most efficient methods of transmitting and delivering humanitarian assistance may vary, but I think the point is that the access be continuous and unimpeded rather than for I or others to get into proscribing how it ought to be effected on the ground.
Reporter: On Syria, you’ve probably seen the latest reports that there were nearly a dozen people, perhaps more, killed in southern Damascus in an area where Palestinian refugees are due to government airstrikes. Given that the Security Council remains divided and there’s no sign that it’s going to change and that yesterday Ban Ki-moon once again criticized the Security Council for its failure to act, do you see that the Security Council is at this point effectively unable to make any significant contribution to efforts to resolve the crisis? And what are the next steps? Are we going to start arming rebels, et cetera?
Ambassador Rice: Well, I’ve been very plain and the United States has been too that the failure of the Council—due to the triple, double vetoes of two members—to come together to back up the efforts of the United Nations and, in particular, the efforts of Kofi Annan most recently, is reprehensible. And it is very unfortunate, as the Secretary General said yesterday, because the consequence has been that the suffering of the Syrian people has intensified. So I do think there are, practically speaking, at present limits to what the Security Council is able to do to effectively change the dynamic on the ground. Now that may change, as circumstances change or as political calculations change. And the Council is of the view that the efforts of Lakhdar Brahimi deserve our support. We think that the peaceful political transition remains the optimal outcome if that is attainable, and his efforts to try to work to that end are certainly something that we very much support.
With respect to U.S. policy, it’s been quite clear. We want to see a peaceful political transition. We support efforts to that end. We have dramatically increased our very generous humanitarian assistance to the people of Syria and the neighboring states. Just yesterday USAID administrator Raj Shah announced another $21 million for WFP for its efforts in the region and did so from Jordan. We have now provided over $100 million in humanitarian assistance and will continue to do so. We are working actively with the opposition to help to strengthen their position politically and materially. We continue to provide substantial support to the opposition, including communications equipment, medical supplies, and other material support. And we will continue on all of these various lines of effort and intensify them with the aim of accelerating the political transition in Syria and speeding the day when the inevitable occurs and Assad is compelled to leave power.
Thank you very much.