We condemn the assassination of Kurdish opposition leader Mishaal al-Tammo and the vicious and unprovoked assault against prominent opposition figure Riad Sayf in Syria. The United States strongly rejects violence directed against peaceful oppositionists wherever it occurs, and stands in solidarity with the courageous people of Syria who deserve their universal rights. These acts lay bare again that the Assad regime’s promises for dialogue and reform are hollow. Today’s attacks demonstrate the Syrian regime’s latest attempts to shut down peaceful opposition inside Syria. President Assad must step down now before taking his country further down this very dangerous path.
It is also notable that these acts of violence took place just three days after the UN Security Council failed to pass a resolution calling for international human rights monitors in Syria in the face of brutal repression. The United States will continue our efforts to mobilize the international community in support of the Syrian people’s democratic aspirations, and work with allies and partners to apply pressure on the Assad regime.
Ambassador Rice’s Remarks at the Security Council Stakeout on the Veto of a UN Security Council Resolution on Syria
Ambassador Rice: Good evening. I hadn’t intended to get a head start on everyone else but since—this has been quite a sad day, most especially for the people of Syria, but also for this Security Council.
The people of Syria, who seek nothing more than the opportunity to achieve their universal human rights and to see their aspirations for freedom and liberty achieved, have been slapped in the face by several members of this Security Council today.
And as I said in the chamber, I think the people of Syria and the people of the region have had today the opportunity to determine who among us stand with the people of the region in their quest for a better future, and who will go to whatever lengths are necessary to defend dictators who are on the warpath.
I am happy to take a few questions.
Reporter: Ambassador Rice, is this a failure of the European policy in the Security Council? Because they practically emptied the resolution of teeth, or is this, have they been duped by Russia, and China, and the BRICs? Or has this exposed China, Russia, and the rest of the BRIC countries? You did say there was a ‘cheap ruse’ of reaction, basically, by the Russians. What do you expect next? Can you explain these three, four elements of what I just asked you from your point of view as the U.S.?
Ambassador Rice: Well first of all, the United States’ view has been, and remains, that this Council ought to pass a resolution that contains real sanctions and that is what we proudly co-sponsored in August, and what we think is still warranted. Now, I’m not going to sit here and Monday-morning quarterback, or Monday-evening quarterback, how this has unfolded. We supported this resolution because we thought it was a step, had it been passed, in the right direction.
But the fact that, after days, if not a couple of weeks, of strenuous effort on the part of the Europeans to achieve the consensus that ought to have been possible, that that effort of goodwill on their part was met with the response today, I think, says the most about the people who were unable to support this resolution and those who cast the veto.
Reporter: Thank you Madam Ambassador. Do you think that diplomacy has reached a dead-end regarding how the international community should deal in regard with the situation in Syria?
Ambassador Rice: No, I don’t think diplomacy or pressure has reached a dead-end. I mean, the fact of the matter is, despite the vote that we saw today in the Council, the majority of members supported the resolution. The majority of members would have supported a sanctions resolution. And the countries in the region are, every day, coalescing and raising their voices against what is transpiring in Syria. This is not, as some would like to pretend, a Western issue. We had countries all over the world supporting this resolution today, and we have countries throughout the region who’ve been very clear that the brutality of the Asad regime has to end and that the behavior of the regime is absolutely intolerable.
Reporter: Madam Ambassador, would you consider keeping on your reset diplomacy strategy with Russia considering the result it gives you, at least at the Security Council?
Ambassador Rice: Well, I’m not sure it “gives us,” but let us say, given the result—look, we have many, many issues on which we work very constructively with Russia—from non-proliferation to arms control to Iran to North Korea, and many, many others—and will continue to do so. On this issue, we and others had a fundamental disagreement with Russia and other countries. And we think history will bear out who was on the right side and who was on the wrong side. But they are a country able to make their sovereign choices and we are able to make ours, and we can still work together and cooperate on a vast range of issues.
Reporter: Yeah, sure, Ambassador Rice, in the chamber you said, this is not about Libya, it’s about countries that want to sell weapons to Syria. And I guess what I wonder is, is the countries, say the IBSA countries, countries like Brazil and others, do you think that what happened on Libya, that a resolution was passed, and then NATO bombed—from the point of view of those countries, things went further than they authorized—do you really think it had no impact on this? Or do you think all of those countries are selling weapons?
Ambassador Rice: I think this is an excuse. I think the vast majority of countries, even today on the Council that were not able to vote in favor of this text, know that this was a resolution that, in substance, was unobjectionable. And their decisions to vote as they did may have had a lot less to do with the text than it did with some effort to maintain solidarity among a certain group of countries. So I think Libya has been beat to death, overused, and misused as an excuse for countries not to take up their responsibilities with respect to Syria.
Reporter: Just a quick follow-up, Ambassador, because—a good follow up—because, you know, the language you used in describing the Russian behavior today, you know, “Cheap ruse”—this is strong language. But then you’re saying here we’re going to go on business as usual and…
Ambassador Rice: I didn’t say business as usual. I said we are two countries with different interests that disagree on this issue.
Reporter: Take it from here on, in regards to Syria.
Ambassador Rice: Well, first of all, the United States has been very strong and unequivocal in its leadership, on a national basis and on a global basis, in condemning and sanctioning the Asad regime. And we are going to continue, as I said in the Council, to maintain our efforts and maintain pressure on the Asad regime.
It is on the wrong side of history. It is not going to get what it seeks by the continual repression and killing and imprisoning of its people. It doesn’t work and it won’t succeed, and sooner or later that will be self-evident.
(Remarks as delivered)
Madame President, the United States is outraged that this Council has utterly failed to address an urgent moral challenge and a growing threat to regional peace and security.
Several members have sought for weeks to weaken and strip bare any text that would have defended the lives of innocent civilians from Asad’s brutality. Today, two members have vetoed a vastly watered-down text that doesn’t even mention sanctions.
Let me be clear: the United States believes it is past time that this Council assume its responsibilities and impose tough, targeted sanctions and an arms embargo on the Asad regime, as we have done domestically.
Yet today, the courageous people of Syria can now clearly see who on this Council supports their yearning for liberty and universal human rights—and who does not. And during this season of change, the people of the Middle East can now see clearly which nations have chosen to ignore their calls for democracy and instead prop up desperate, cruel dictators. Those who oppose this resolution and give cover to a brutal regime will have to answer to the Syrian people—and, indeed, to people across the region who are pursuing the same universal aspirations.
The record is clear. For more than six months, the Asad regime has deliberately unleashed violence, torture, and persecution against peaceful protesters, human rights defenders, and their families. The High Commissioner for Human Rights has already warned that the Syrian government’s appalling actions might amount to crimes against humanity. The Asad regime’s crimes have won a chorus of condemnation from the region, including the Gulf Cooperation Council, which demanded an immediate end to what it called Asad’s “killing machine.” But this Council has not yet passed even a hortatory resolution to counter the Asad regime’s brutal oppression.
The arguments against strong Council action grow weaker and weaker by the day. Some on this Council argue that the Asad regime’s abuses are not that egregious, or that the regime deserves more time for its so-called reforms. But as the UN’s own reporting makes clear, the Syrian government’s efforts to mask its continued atrocities are as transparent as its promises of reform are empty. Others claim that strong Security Council action on Syria would merely be a pretext for military intervention.
Let there be no doubt: this is not about military intervention. This is not about Libya. That is a cheap ruse by those who would rather sell arms to the Syrian regime than stand with the Syrian people.
This is about whether this Council, during a time of sweeping change in the Middle East, will stand with peaceful protestors crying out for freedom—or with a regime of thugs with guns that tramples human dignity and human rights. As matters now stand, this Council will not even mandate the dispatch of human rights monitors to Syria—a grave failure that may doom the prospects for peaceful protest in the face of a regime that knows no limits.
In August, we clearly condemned the violence and made clear that the Syrian regime’s repression is utterly unacceptable. Several of us on this Council and many throughout the international community have voiced our condemnation and imposed sanctions on the Asad regime. Regional organizations such as the League of Arab States, the Gulf Cooperation Council, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation have urged the Syrian government to stop the bloodshed. But the Syrian government’s reply has been an increase in the violence and repression. And some Council members have chosen to look the other way. We urge the governments that failed to support Council action to change course and heed the voices of the Syrian people. The Asad regime flatly refuses to meet its international obligations, including those laid out in this Council’s August 3 Presidential Statement, and the international community must bring real consequences to bear.
In failing to adopt the draft resolution before us, this Council has squandered an opportunity to shoulder its responsibilities to the Syrian people. We deeply regret that some members of the Council have prevented us from taking a principled stand against the Syrian regime’s brutal oppression of its people. But the suffering citizens of Syria are watching today, and so is the entire Middle East. The crisis in Syria will stay before the Security Council, and we will not rest until this Council rises to meet its responsibilities.
Thank you, Madame President.
Thank you, Madame President.
One month ago at the 17th Special Session of the Human Rights Council, the United States and other members of this body expressed our profound concern over the findings in the report of the Fact Finding Mission. We strongly condemned the serious, systematic and continuing human rights violations by the Syrian authorities, which unfortunately have intensified rather than abated since that time. The United States welcomes the prompt formation of the Commission of Inquiry mandated at the Special Session and strongly urges full cooperation by the Syrian government and all other member states.
The High Commissioner has noted that the Syrian government’s continued campaign of repression is now responsible for the deaths of over 2,600 of its own citizens. The body count rises on a daily basis. The Fact Finding Mission and international human rights observers, have found that the Syrian security and military forces are responsible for arbitrary executions and detentions, torture, and other abuse of detainees, including young children. The United States condems in the strongest possible terms the killing of Syrian human rights activist Ghiyath Mattar while in the custody of Syrian security forces. Ghiyath Mattar courageously confronted the regime’s despicable violence with peaceful protest, and he paid the ultimate price for his bravery.
Senior members of the Syrian regime who bear responsibility for safeguarding their people have betrayed that obligation. They must be accountable for the gross violations of human rights that continue. Again and again, Damascus has blamed armed insurgents for the harm causes to the thousands of citizens who have bled on the streets of Syria. Coming from a government that has denied access to independent observers, to international media, and to the experienced and objective investigators we have mandated here, these assertions have no credibility. It is time for the regime to stop trying to mask its atrocities with propaganda. The Assad regime must step aside and let Syria transition peacefully to a representative and inclusive democracy that supports and defends the universal rights of all Syrians.
President Assad’s public support for the campaign of brutal crackdowns shows that he is determined to hold on to power regardless of the price paid by his people. We call on the Syrian authorities to stop killing and torturing their people immediately, and to allow the Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry, international humanitarian agencies, and international media unrestricted access to report on the true conditions inside Syria.
The United States strongly affirms our unwavering support for the Syrian people. A legitimate government does not fear dissent, does not sow seeds of sectarianism, and does not rely on violence and intimidation to force a false dialogue. The United States stands with the Syrian people as they strive to determine their own destiny in a peaceful transition to a representative and inclusive government, and urges those who would hinder it to step aside.
The Syrian government’s targeted, brutal attack on Ali Farzat, the most popular political cartoonist in the country and a long-time human rights advocate, is deplorable. The regime’s thugs focused their attention on Ferzat’s hands, beating them furiously and breaking one of them – a clear message that he should stop drawing. He was then reportedly dumped on the side of a road in Damascus, where passers-by stopped and took him to a Damascus hospital.
Many other moderate activists who oppose violence have been jailed for speaking out against the regime, including Walid al-Buni, Nawaf Basheer, Georges Sabra, Mohammed Ghaliyoun, and Abdullah al-Khalil. Some have been held for months incommunicado.
While making empty promises about dialogue with the Syrian people, the Assad regime continues to carry out brutal attacks against peaceful Syrians trying to exercise their universal right to free expression. We demand that the Assad regime immediately stop its campaign of terror through torture, illegal imprisonment, and murder.
I congratulate the Human Rights Council for its work to create an international independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate the deteriorating human rights situation in Syria and to make clear the world’s concern for the Syrian people. Today, the international community joined together to denounce the Syrian regime’s horrific violence. The United States worked closely with countries from every part of the world – more than 30 members of the Human Rights Council, including key Arab members — to establish this mandate.
The Commission of Inquiry will investigate all violations of international human rights law by Syrian Authorities and help the international community address the serious human rights abuses in Syria and ensure that those responsible are held to account.
There are credible reports that government forces in Syria have committed numerous gross human rights violations, including torture and summary executions in their crackdown against opposition members. The most recent attack by Syrian security forces on protesters in Homs is as deplorable as it is sadly representative of the Asad regime’s utter disregard for the Syrian people.
The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the slaughter, arrest, and torture of peaceful protesters taking place in Syria. We continue to urge nations around the world to stand with the Syrian people in their demands for a government that represents the needs and will of its people and protects their universal rights. For the sake of the Syrian people, it is time for Asad to step aside and leave this transition to the Syrians themselves.
The passage today of the Human Rights Council resolution on the Human Rights Situation in Syria sends several important messages:
First, there is a very strong and growing consensus in the international community that Assad has lost legitimacy to govern and must step down.
The outcome manifests the extent to which he is now isolated.
Second, through this resolution, the international community sent a clear message to the Syrian people: We will not stand by silently as innocent civilians and peaceful protesters are slaughtered by security forces. We are working to ramp up pressure on the Syrian authorities to help ensure that the violence ends.
We have not been fooled by empty promises of reform and engagement.
Actions speak louder than words: the continuing atrocities have sent a loud and clear message to us all that Assad’s promises cannot be trusted.
The Commission of Inquiry established by the resolution will ensure that evidence of atrocities will be uncovered and those responsible will be identified and held accountable.
Today’s outcome is a victory for the Syrian people.
Thank you Madame President.
For the second time this year, we join a special session on the human rights situation in Syria to make clear the international community’s grave and growing concerns over the rapidly deteriorating situation there.
We condemn in the strongest terms, the ongoing slaughter and callous brutality unleashed by the Assad regime against the Syrian people.
The Syrian government’s abuses have been condemned by leaders in the region and from every region of the world. Increasingly, the international community is speaking with one voice to denounce the Syrian regime’s horrific violence.
The condemnation from Syria’s neighbors shows that the Assad regime is more isolated than ever.
Our message to the Syrian Government is clear: We will not turn a blind eye as you deliberately and ruthlessly imprison, torture, and kill your own citizens.
To the brave people of Syria who are demanding freedom and dignity, we send the message that the world stands by you, and we will not ignore your plight.
The human rights situation in Syria is extremely grave and deteriorating. The death toll continues to rise. Regime security forces continue to engage in house-to-house raids, mass arrests, and the torture of prisoners. We have heard multiple accounts from human rights groups of the Assad regime’s security forces interrogating and abusing detainees in large facilities such as stadiums and factories. There are also credible reports of detainees being tortured to death and of bodies returned to families bearing signs of torture.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict also reported this week of allegations that children have been tortured by security forces.
The United States deplores Assad’s campaign of ever-increasing brutality and terror against unarmed innocents, which may amount to crimes against humanity. The regime’s horrific actions – the systematic violence, the mass arrests, and the outright murder of civilians – show its disdain for the will of the Syrian people, and for the calls of the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council, regional leaders and the international community to end the violence immediately.
Assad’s chosen course also defies the clear demands contained in the UN Security Council’s Presidential Statement. And the regime’s continued assault on civilians flies in the face of a commendable initiative by the Turkish government, which warned the Assad regime that it must halt its attacks on civilians immediately and unconditionally.
This is not the work of the fictional “armed gangs” invoked by Assad’s propagandists. The regime has made a conscious choice to continue to deploy security forces throughout the country to prevent demonstrations, to attack civilians, and to arrest activists and protesters on a massive scale. The Assad regime has no intention of ceasing its violent attacks against the Syrian people.
We welcome the recent report of the Syria Fact Finding Mission, called for at this Council’s April 29 Special Session. We also welcome the statements made by the Security Council, including the August 3 Presidential Statement. Today we must take firmer actions to halt the ongoing crackdown against the Syrian people. The United States supports the call for an international, transparent, independent and prompt investigation into alleged violations of international human rights law by Syrian authorities. And we will work with our partners so that those responsible for crimes will be held accountable, either through the courts of a democratic Syria or through international processes.
The Syrian people cannot wait. As President Obama said last week, “the time has come for President Assad to step aside… We recognize that it will take time for the Syrian people to achieve the justice they deserve. There will be more struggle and sacrifice. It is clear that President Assad believes that he can silence the voices of his people by resorting to the repressive tactics of the past. But he is wrong…It is time for the Syrian people to determine their own destiny, and we will continue to stand firmly on their side.”
Ambassador Donahoe: We are here today because the Human Rights Council is going to hold an urgent session on the human rights crisis in Syria. As you know, this is the second time we have been required to hold an exceptional session about the human rights situation in Syria in just the last few months.
I would like to make three quick points. One is about the human rights situation; second about the emerging international consensus on the loss of legitimacy of the Assad regime; and third, what do we expect as the outcome of today.
On the human rights situation, everyone knows that the human rights crisis has deteriorated significantly in the last few weeks. The High Commissioner for Human Rights has come out and indicated that there are credible allegations of systematic and widespread human rights violations that may amount to crimes against humanity.
The Special Representative of the Secretary General on Children in Armed Conflict has let us know there are credible allegations of torture of children.
We have credible allegations that Assad has used tanks. We have documentary evidence that they’ve used tanks, machine guns, grenades and snipers against peaceful protesters, human rights defenders, et cetera. Innocent civilians are being massacred.
I don’t think there’s any doubt in the mind of anyone that the situation has deteriorated significantly.
Second, we see an emerging consensus in the international community. There’s growing unity and resolve that Assad must go. He’s lost the legitimacy to rule the Syrian people. This special session that we are about to hold was called for by a strong majority of council members, well above the number we needed to call a special session.
Importantly, we have the support of four Arab neighbors of Syria — Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan.
Secondly, as you all know, the Arab League has spoken out, the OIC has spoken out, the EU has spoken out to get Assad to stop the violence, and our President, President Obama, has asked Assad to step down and allow the Syrian people to move toward a peaceful future.
It is clear that Assad is isolated and I think today’s session will underscore that point.
What do we expect as an outcome? The purpose of today’s session is to increase pressure on the Assad regime, to get Assad to step down, and to allow the Syrian people to move forward.
The specific outcome we hope for is the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry (COI) to investigate facts on the ground in Syria and to bring the Syrian authorities who are responsible for the atrocities to account.
We believe the establishment of a COI is the gold standard in the human rights world and we think this will send a strong message to the Assad regime that the allegations against them are very serious.
With that, I’ll take a couple of questions.
Question: I’d like to have your reaction on what is happening [in Libya] yesterday and if it will reflect on this session today on Syria.
Ambassador Donahoe: The first comment is that every situation is different, and I do not want to draw direct conclusions about the situation in Syria from what has happened in Libya.
That said, I will say the indications overnight are somewhat hopeful about the situation in Libya. President Obama has recognized the TNC (Transitional National Council) as the legitimate authority in Libya. He has expressed hope that the TNC will continue to demonstrate leadership in moving the Libyan people to a democratic future.
Last, I will say, I have to comment that we did in February of this year hold a comparable special session on the crisis in Libya where we also established a Commission of Inquiry, and that Commission of Inquiry was able to enter Libya and to document atrocities by the Gadhafi regime. So in that sense it is relevant.
Question: What about the latest developments, your commentary about the latest developments of the situation in Libya with Gadhafi that is practically unchaining his tanks against Tripoli population?
Ambassador Donahoe: Could you repeat that question?
Question: What is your commentary about the latest developments of the situation in Libya, because Gadhafi is probably going down, but now is unchaining his tanks against the population as many agencies reported.
Ambassador Donahoe: First off the facts on the ground in Libya are changing moment by moment and I do not want to get ahead of the story. The indications we have are that there is the prospect that it’s moving in a positive direction. However, Gadhafi has made manifest his brutality against his people for the last number of months, so we cannot let our guard down and assume that that’s over.
Question: Does the U.S. support the call for the Security Council on Syria, the Security Council to seize the ICC, to refer the matter of Syria to the ICC?
Ambassador Donahoe: First off, the United States absolutely supports accountability for the Syrian atrocities against the Syrian people. That’s the first thing. We would support either having that accountability take place in institutions in a new democratic Syria if possible, or in the appropriate international bodies.
I will say that today at the Human Rights Council we are not authorized to call for a move to the ICC. However, as it moves to the Security Council I am sure that everyone will take up the allegations very seriously.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning, and I apologize for the delay, but we had a long agenda, as I always do when I meet with my colleague. I want to welcome the foreign minister once again to the State Department. And this has been a very productive and wide-ranging discussion.
Before I begin about the matters that we were discussing, I want once again to offer our deepest sympathies on behalf of the American people to our friends in Norway, especially the families of those who lost loved ones. In the days since those terrible events, the whole world has once again witnessed the resilience and dignity of the Norwegian people as they have comforted the bereaved, healed the wounded, and pulled together on behalf of a nation whose values we so greatly admire.
Once again, we see Norway setting an example for the world as a strong, generous, far-sighted member of the international community. But that is not a surprise because we see it on a regular basis. As food shortages, for example, threaten millions of lives in the Horn of Africa, we see Norway’s global leadership in development assistance and disaster relief. Norway has already contributed nearly $50 million in this crisis. In fact, every year Norway dedicates a full 1 percent of its GDP to promote sustainable development around the world, and that is a remarkably generous amount.
Norway’s commitment to this work is rooted in the understanding that it is not just the right thing to do, but as I said in my speech yesterday, it is the smart thing as well because of the direct impact that development has on global stability, security, and opportunity. This is an insight we should remember here in Washington as we have our own discussions about how best to allocate our budgetary resources. And today, the foreign minister and I discussed development priorities, and in particular the situation in the Horn of Africa.
Norway is rightly respected as a peacemaker and a peacekeeper, and I thanked the foreign minister in particular for Norway’s strong support of the people of Afghanistan, its commitment to achieving a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, its contributions to the NATO mission to protect civilians in Libya. And we discussed the importance of supporting the Libyan people as they plan for a post-Qadhafi reconstruction and stabilization period.
In addition, we discussed Syria, where we both remain acutely concerned about the Asad regime’s campaign of violence against their own citizens. Norway and our other European allies have been strong, consistent voices on behalf of the Syrian people, and I commend them for their advocacy. The Asad regime’s continued brutality is galvanizing international opinion. There has been a crescendo of condemnation not only from the world but in particular from the region.
After the Security Council statement, we’ve seen movement in rapid succession from the Arab League, the GCC, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and others. The United States will continue to work with our partners to turn this growing consensus into increased pressure and isolation for the Asad regime. In particular, we urge those countries still buying Syrian oil and gas, those countries still sending Asad weapons, those countries whose political and economic support give him comfort in his brutality, to get on the right side of history. President Asad has lost the legitimacy to lead, and it is clear that Syria would be better off without him.
Yesterday, the United States imposed new sanctions and Ambassador Ford delivered a clear message to the Syrian Government: Immediately stop the violence, withdraw your security forces, respond to the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people for a democratic transition in concrete and meaningful ways. Now, it is something that we are watching closely and we are consulting closely with partners around the world, and we expect to see action.
So whether it’s promoting sustainable development or standing up for universal rights in the face of political violence, the United States and Norway are working together on so many important issues. And I thank the foreign minister for his partnership and his friendship and this visit, and I look forward to our continuing work together.
FOREIGN MINISTER STOERE: Thank you, Madam Secretary. Let me say on behalf of all Norwegians that the messages of comfort we have received from the President and the Vice President, yourself, on behalf of the American people and from American friends all over the United States, has been heartening. I can tell you as a foreign minister, I have seen it as my task to transmit these warm words to the families, and I have been going from funeral to funeral to follow young teenagers who ended their lives because they went to a political summer camp. So this is a very dramatic moment when Norwegians are coming together, and we feel that the support we get, which is heartfelt, is strong and important. So I thank you for that.
You gave an excellent summary of our discussions. I’d just like to say how much I appreciate these regular opportunities we have to compare notes. It happens almost monthly when we meet somewhere out traveling, but I appreciate these opportunities here at the State Department to do a systematic rundown.
We met in Greenland last time for the Arctic foreign minister meeting, illustrating that that is a new part of the world where we need good political stewardship to manage resources, look after the environment, and keep security and low tension. And we are succeeding in that. I think it’s an area where we will see a lot more attention in the future. It’s a priority in our foreign policy because it’s close to us as Norway in the north.
But as you said, we also have a partnership with the U.S. on a number of other issues and agendas, and the strength of that partnership is that open dialogue and the trust that you also have been showing as Secretary, and I thank you for that.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, Jonas.
MS. NULAND: Okay. We have time for two questions from the American side and two questions from the Norwegian side today. The first question to Arshad Mohammed from Reuters.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, yesterday in your interview with CBS, you said that what really needs to be done to bring pressure to bear on Syria is to sanction its oil and gas industry. What progress, if any, are you making in persuading European nations or India or China to curtail their significant investments in the oil and gas industry, and what countries in particular are still buying their oil and gas that you’d like to see them stop?
And then also on Syria, you talked about – it seemed as if yesterday you really are not leaning toward explicitly calling for Asad to go. It’s as if you want there to be a greater consensus among your allies to do that. What is the sort of hesitation on that? Are some of your partners like Turkey urging you not to do this, to give Asad a little more time, despite the acceleration of violence in the last week, ten days? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Arshad, I think it is fair to say that we have been engaging in intensive outreach and international diplomacy with many countries in the region and beyond to encourage and persuade them to speak out, number one, and then to join us in taking action, number two.
You’re aware that it took an intense effort to get the presidential statement, which we did finally see issued just about two weeks ago. And that statement was the first international statement that really captured what has become a growing consensus about Asad’s brutality and his refusal to follow up on any of the reforms that he has claimed to be supporting. Then, as I said, we saw in quick succession the Arab League, which reversed its position, the Gulf Coordinating Council, which made a very strong statement led by an important and welcome statement from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
So we are watching the growing crescendo of condemnation that I referenced, and I don’t think you should assume anything other than we’re trying and succeeding at putting together an international effort so that there will not be any temptation on the part of anyone inside the Asad regime to claim that it’s only the United States or maybe it’s only the West. Indeed, it’s the entire world.
And we’re making the case to our international partners to intensify the financial and political pressure to get the Syrian Government to cease its brutality against its own citizens and to make way for positive change. At the same time, we and others are reaching out to members of the opposition inside and outside of Syria to encourage them to create a unified vision of what an inclusive, participatory, democratic system in Syria could look like. So there’s a lot of work going on, and I think that that work is paying off.
QUESTION: Are you making progress on the oil and gas (inaudible)?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Stay tuned.
QUESTION: Have you –
MS. NULAND: Next question –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Stay tuned.
MS. NULAND: Next question on the Norwegian side to Anders Tvegard of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you for your ongoing and continued support after the terrorist attacks in Norway. Norway, your ally in the Middle East, will not add her voice to Syrian President Asad to step down at this moment because there are no clear alternative. How helpful is this in your ongoing diplomatic effort – the Norwegian position?
And if I may, in Afghanistan, U.S. is about to pull out a certain number of troops and Norway is concerned that the troop withdrawal will have an effect on the Norwegian forces on the ground. In what respect will Norway’s concern be taken into consideration when you decide from which areas to pull your troops? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I will let Jonas address your first question because that is a matter for Norway to respond to.
On the second question, I can assure you there will be intensive consultations at all levels, bilaterally and through NATO ISAF, as the withdrawal occurs. We have been not only grateful for, but very impressed by the Norwegian presence in Norway, and we are well aware of the sacrifice and commitment that Norway has provided to the coalition efforts in Afghanistan, and there will be a very clear path forward that we will all travel together.
FOREIGN MINISTER STOERE: If I may just on Syria say that I think we are part of that broad and emerging international voice sending clear message to the regime in Damascus. The Secretary and I attended the Human Rights Council in Geneva in early March when Libya was emerging as a real problem. And I think we both used – coined this version that a regime which is turning its army on its people is losing legitimacy to represent that people. That is, to me, a lead-up to expressing a clear view on that leadership. And I think we see a similar process in terms of sending a very strong, normative message, which is follow-up that presidential statements, a number of sanctions.
And I would in particular salute the regional organization’s clear message. We have been missing that, but it is starting to come from Syria’s neighbors and from Syria’s own organizations, and that is of great importance to – building that alliance is part of the work which is needed now.
MS. NULAND: Next question, Kirit Radia, ABC.
QUESTION: Hi. Good morning to you both. Question for the both of you, but particularly for the Secretary, if you don’t mind answering, on the Middle East peace process. Can you tell us how much progress has been made among the Quartet in developing the document that could provide some way forward in hopes of staving off the Palestinian vote at the United Nations in September?
And if I may ask, Madam Secretary, about reports that the talks with the Taliban have collapsed, what can you tell us about that? What – how serious were these efforts and how far did they get, and where do you go from here? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, with respect to Middle East peace, Jonas and I had a very good discussion of all the issues concerning the Middle East today. I applaud Norway’s continued leadership and commitment to the peace process and also its chairmanship of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, which has been the principal international support for a lot of the work that’s been done on the ground by the Palestinian Authority to improve the lives, the security, the well-being of the Palestinian people.
President Abbas has said on numerous occasions that substantive negotiations are his preferred course, and we take him at his word. That is why we’re working very hard with our Quartet partners to come up with a platform for the resumption of negotiations. And we’re doing so based on President Obama’s May remarks, which very clearly set out parameters for the two major issues that have to be addressed: on the one hand, territory, on the other hand, security.
We have continued to support strongly a two-state solution and the negotiations are absolutely imperative for us to reach that two-state solution. We believe that UN resolutions, no matter what they say, are no substitute for the difficult but necessary give and take that can occur only in a negotiating process. So we are going to oppose that approach and strongly support every effort to resume negotiations.
QUESTION: And on the Taliban talks?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I have no comment on that.
FOREIGN MINISTER STOERE: Well, I – I’ll just like to rally my voice to the Secretary. When it comes to a two-state solution, that should come about through negotiations. Norway has been associated with Oslo, and Oslo was all about negotiating the painful way to that two-state solution so they could leave side by side in peace. One should not ignore the steps which have been taken on that road, but a lot still remains to be done. And we as an international community must do whatever we can to support that road.
That being said, we will have to wait and see what the Palestinians will present for September, and it is Norway’s view that we have to view their plans in detail when they are ready to come up with it. We support any initiative from the Quartet that may bring negotiations forward. It is not Norway’s view that it is illegitimate to turn to the UN to get an expression. That has been regular in the Middle East peace process since the creation of a state of Israel.
But no matter how many resolutions you pass, negotiations will be needed to solve the tricky issues. That I understand is also the view of the Palestinian president, who, in my – to my knowledge, has shown every readiness to engage in that negotiation. It takes two to make this, and we will have to work on both sides to make that difficult task possible.
MS. NULAND: And the last question is from Vegard Kvaale of the Dagbladet.
QUESTION: Thank you. Once again, Madam Secretary, thank you for your support after the terrorist attacks. I was just wondering, what do you think of the response from the Norwegian Government and Norwegian people to the attacks? And how has American authorities assisted Norwegian authorities after the attacks? And last, how should the international community deal with these kinds sort of homegrown terrorism threats in the future? Are there, for instance, any lessons that we can take from the Oklahoma bombings in ’95? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I deeply admire the resilience of the Norwegian people, and we saw it once again in the aftermath of this terrible terrorist attack of July 22nd. It is almost hard for me as a mother to imagine. And when Jonas told me about going to funerals, it was a terrible flashback to having gone to Oklahoma City following the attack there, going to funerals and events after 9/11, where it is a – just a terrible human tragedy that you are part of as a member of the human family, and particularly of countries like ours that really cherish our values of openness and believe strongly in the opportunity that exists for people of different backgrounds, different beliefs to live and work together, to compete in the arena of ideas.
And I think though hearts are certainly broken in Norway, the response that we have seen to hatred and to the viciousness of the terrorist’s message that was posted on the internet has been in keeping with the strength of the Norwegian people and the values that you exhibit around the world. And these values of tolerance and solidarity and democracy and openness are the very values that these young people were believing in because they had chosen to become involved in the political process of your country. And it’s a terrible loss for Norway, but it is a loss for all of us as we think about those young lives that were cut short.
So we stand with you now and always. We have offered our continuing support. Members of our law enforcement community have been in touch with counterparts in Norway. And where we’ve been asked to provide information, we’ve been more than willing to do so. We stand ready to offer any assistance that you may require.
This is a reminder that, in our democracies, we have to be balancing liberty and security all the time. That is not an easy balance. We made some changes after Oklahoma City, we made other changes after 9/11, but in our democracy we have to keep balancing those apparently contradictory values, but in my view, you cannot have one without the other. And so how do we define each in ways that maximize the potential for the people of our countries to realize their own dreams and aspirations. So we are looking to deepen our discussion about these challenges going forward.
Thank you all very much.