Ambassador Rice: Good afternoon, everyone.
Today has been an unusually good day at the United Nations. We saw the General Assembly act by an overwhelming margin to credential the new Libyan government, its Transitional National Council, as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people. We had the unanimous adoption of Resolution 2009, establishing a new United Nations presence in Libya and modifying the sanctions regime to allow resources to flow more easily as well as transparently to the Libyan authorities.
In addition, we adopted a 12-month extension of the mission of the United Nations in Liberia. Which the United States sponsored, and that, too, by a unanimous vote. So it has been a good day.
And, of course, we are looking forward to a busy week next week. As always, President Obama will be here. He will have a very full schedule over the course of his two and a half days here. He will arrive on Monday the 19th in the afternoon. He will have a very full day on Tuesday when he will participate in the Secretary-General’s high-level meeting on Libya, and we view this as a very important occasion. It corresponds to a recommendation that the President, himself, made in August, and we think it provides an opportunity for the international community to show that there is broad and united support for the people of Libya as they embark on this important transition.
He will also participate in a number of bilateral meetings, including with chairman Jalil of the TNC, and will also have the opportunity to co-chair, with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, a very important high-level meeting on open government partnership, and we’re looking very much forward to that.
On Wednesday, he will, of course, give the opening address at the General Assembly and continue his bilateral meetings. The President will participate in the Secretary-General’s lunch and will traditionally do as he always does and host a reception in the evening for heads of state and delegation.
The White House went through a more detailed briefing today of all the aspects of the President’s schedule, so I won’t bore you with that. But, obviously, we look forward to a very productive and important week. And I’m happy to take a few questions
Reporter: As you know, President Abbas said today that he was planning to bring the question of Palestinian membership of the UN to the Security Council. There’s a school of thinking among the Palestinians that it’s time to bring the two-state solution back to the UN because it started here. The U.S. kind of took it over after Madrid, but 20 years later the Palestinians are worse off, they have three times as many settlers, they don’t have a state and they are still under occupation, so they feel like the U.S. has been stalling on them for 20 years. And if they bring it back here, there will be a greater sense of urgency and more sympathy from the international community for seeing a two-state solution through to its fruition. How do you feel about that?
Ambassador Rice: Well, the U.S has not been stalling—we’ve been working very hard for many, many years, but, certainly, from the second day that President Obama took office, to try to accomplish a two-state solution. And that remains our interest and our objective and we are working very hard every day to accomplish that. And we’ll continue to do so during and after the General Assembly this year.
We are supportive and we want to see the creation of a Palestinian state. There is no question about that. And President Obama said so last year, again, here at the General Assembly. But the fact of the matter is, there’s only one way to accomplish that. And that is by the two parties sitting down at the negotiating table and deciding on the terms of that state and deciding on the issues that divide them.
The issues are borders, security, the capitol of a new state, refugees, water and all the very complex final status issues that can’t be decided by fiat and a piece of paper here in the United Nations, whether in the Security Council or the General Assembly.
They can only be decided by direct negotiations between the two parties and an agreement between the two parties. And that’s what we are working very, very hard to foster. That’s been our objective for many years, and certainly over the last two and a half years of the Obama Administration.
Reporter: Two-part question. We know Congress has threatened to cut off funding to the Palestinians if they did this and came to the Security Council [inaudible]. How will this affect the Administration’s relationship with the Palestinians? And also, former President Jimmy Carter was on Al Jazeera today, and he said that the fact that this happened just shows that the United States has lost all hope for the region. Not only for the Palestinians but for the Israelis. Do you have any evidence to the contrary?
Ambassador Rice: I think that the United States’ influence in the region remains very strong. We have important alliances and partnerships that we are nurturing, and they continue to bear fruit.
And we have seen, from Libya to Syria to all elements of the region that the United States is very much viewed as an important player and partner and will continue to be so. Now, with respect to the relationship with the Palestinians—first of all, let’s be clear. We heard President Abbas’s speech, we acknowledge what he said, but there are many questions about how this process will unfold in New York, and we certainly don’t want to prejudge that.
We continue to think that the best course would not be actions here in New York, but the best course would be for the parties to return swiftly and seriously to the negotiating table. I’m not going to speculate about the potential reactions in Congress. That is obviously something that will depend on what transpires and how the members of Congress, themselves, react. But for the United States, for the Administration, we certainly view as valuable our partnership with both the Israelis and the Palestinians, and we will continue to play our role in trying to bring the parties to a peaceful settlement.
Reporter: On Sudan, I wanted to ask you this. That beyond just the fighting and bombing in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, there was an agreement that was announced by the UN in Abyei that Khartoum and Juba would both pull out, even before the UNISFA mission was fully implemented. And now Khartoum has said that that’s not true—they didn’t agree to that, that the UN misspoke. I wanted to know what’s your understanding of when they committed to pull out. And, two, what—in President Obama’s bilateral, what’s the place of Sudan. I mean last year it was quite high profile on his visit. Does it remain that? Does he think that things are better there than they were last year? And what’s he going to be doing here while he’s here on Sudan?
Ambassador Rice: Well, with respect to the redeployment of forces from the Abyei area, the two sides signed an agreement and made a commitment to withdraw those forces, in fact, earlier in the process than we are today, and certainly long before the full deployment of UNISFA.
So we think that redeployment is overdue and needs to be accomplished urgently. And any suggestion that that wasn’t in fact the agreement is belied by the document that both parties signed. Obviously, the United States remains very interested in, very committed to peace and security in Sudan, both the Republic of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan, and we’re frankly quite concerned that many of the critical issues that need to be resolved between North and South remain unresolved. Many of the crucial aspects of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement remain unresolved and unimplemented and that, in and of itself, has the potential to be a spark that could ignite underlying tensions.
We’re also very, very concerned by what is transpiring in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, where aerial bombardments, attacks on civilians and humanitarian crisis is continuing and intensifying. So that also is of concern, and, of course, we remain very much focused on what is transpiring in Darfur.
So there’s no diminution in the U.S. government’s focus on, or commitment to what transpires in Sudan. And as was mentioned today at the White House, President Obama will have the opportunity to meet briefly with President Salva Kiir of South Sudan during the United Nations General Assembly.
Reporter: There was a statement yesterday that Syria…[Inaudible]…Is President Obama going to discuss the situation in Syria…[Inaudible]
Ambassador Rice: The United States shares the Secretary-General’s outrage at what is transpiring in Syria, and that is why we’ve consistently taken very strong action against the Syrian authorities. We’ve condemned the ridiculous and excessive violence against civilians that continues today throughout the country.
And we’ve imposed very significant sanctions, bilaterally, against the Assad government, the individuals in it and elements of the economy which fuel the regime, including the energy sector and the financial sector. Obviously, this is high on our agenda and it is already and will continue to be an important topic of conversation for United States officials when they interact with their counterparts.
Reporter: …A question…the negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, fostered by the U.S., has been fruitless for more than 20 years now. And the Palestinians, they’re coming to the UN to resolve things at the UN and the U.S. is blocking, in fact, their way. What do you think…
Ambassador Rice: …They haven’t come here yet, so let’s not get ahead of it. But let me just say this. It is true that negotiations have not yet yielded the outcome we all seek and desire. But it is also equally true that there is no other way to accomplish the establishment of a Palestinian state. There’s no magic wand. There’s no magic piece of paper, here or anywhere else, that, in and of itself, can create that outcome. As a practical, factual matter.
In order to achieve the creation of a Palestinian state with clear boundaries, with sovereignty, with the ability to secure itself and provide for its people, there has to be a negotiated settlement and that is why we’re continuing to make every effort to bring that about.
That is why we think that it is short sighted and counter-productive to try a means of short-circuiting that, because at the end of the day, the only way to change conditions in the real world for the people of Palestine and to create two states, living side-by-side in peace and security, is at the negotiating table.
Reporter: Two quick questions logistically. Do you believe the Palestinians have the nine votes in the Security Council they need to make a U.S. veto irrelevant? And B, the Palestinians seem to want this to happen very quickly. Do you—how fast do you expect this to happen? Does the U.S. want to delay it?
Ambassador Rice: I really am not going to get into speculating about the various ways this could come, on what timelines, in what form or fashion. If we’ve learned anything as we have focused very closely on this process, it is, we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen. So obviously we will wait and see.
I’m not going to predict today what exactly the vote count is, but I think there are more than one, and perhaps several members of the Security Council, who are skeptical about the timeliness of action in the Security Council.
Thank you very much.
The United States is deeply concerned about the fighting that broke out September 1 between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the forces of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-North (SPLM/A-N) in Blue Nile State in Sudan, as well as the ongoing troop mobilization on both sides. We call on both parties to cease hostilities and for the SAF to end aerial bombings. We also call on both parties to protect civilians and engage in dialogue to prevent further escalation of violence.
These clashes in Blue Nile follow fighting that has been ongoing since June 5 between the SAF and SPLM/A-North in Southern Kordofan, about which we also remain deeply concerned. The United States continues to call on both sides to allow unfettered humanitarian access and human rights monitoring of affected populations in Southern Kordofan, as well as Blue Nile.
The spread of fighting into Blue Nile further highlights the urgent need for negotiations between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North to reach a political settlement that brings peace and stability to Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. In this regard we are particularly disappointed that there has been no follow through after the meeting between President Bashir and SPLM/N Chairman Malik Agar in Khartoum on August 21. We also reiterate the need for a peaceful relationship between Sudan and South Sudan and for resolution of outstanding issues between the two countries.
This week’s announcement by the Government of Sudan to establish a two-week unilateral ceasefire in Sudan’s Southern Kordofan state is a positive initial step toward bringing stability and relief to those affected by violence since early June. The United States strongly urges the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North to show the same leadership and declare a two week ceasefire as well.
While we are encouraged by this announcement of a unilateral ceasefire and renewed discussions between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, the parties must immediately return to talks to agree to a full cessation of hostilities and a resolution of the political future of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. The Framework Agreement signed on June 28 in Addis Ababa is a strong foundation for these talks.
The Government of Sudan must allow immediate and full access to humanitarian organizations so that they can provide much needed relief to the people of Southern Kordofan. We strongly urge both sides to refrain from using a ceasefire to strengthen any military positions.
The United States supports the call by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights for a full investigation of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Southern Kordofan. Those responsible for attacks on civilians must be held accountable for their actions.
Chairman Kerry, Ranking Member Lugar, Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, thank you for the opportunity to be here to discuss the historic achievement symbolized by South Sudan’s independence and the opportunities and challenges ahead as Sudan and South Sudan seek to define their future relationship with each other and the international community.
I will discuss below the many tasks and challenges that lie ahead. But first we should recall that a fundamental objective of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement was to provide the people of southern Sudan a choice whether to continue within one country or to separate. The people made that choice in January, voting for separation, and the independence of South Sudan was achieved July 9 without major conflict and with the recognition of the Government of Sudan. All those, in the Congress, among the many public organizations and advocates, the government entities and individuals over two administrations, all those who worked for this over many years should take pride and joy in this achievement.
I was in Juba last Saturday for South Sudan’s independence ceremony. It was a very moving occasion. As President Obama said in his statement recognizing South Sudan, the day reminded us “that after the darkness of war, the light of a new dawn is possible.” Tens of thousands of people endured sweltering heat for hours to celebrate the birth of their new nation. Sudan was the first country to recognize South Sudan’s independence. This was a historic achievement that represents a new beginning for the people of South Sudan as well as those of Sudan.
Mr. Chairman, this achievement was far from inevitable. Just a year ago, the peace process between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement was stalled. Many doubted whether it would be possible to have an on-time, peaceful referendum for Southern Sudan and whether the Government of Sudan would ever accept the results. A return to open conflict seemed very possible. During that time, President Obama committed to reenergizing the peace effort, and since then, we have intensified our diplomatic engagement with the CPA parties as well as our partners in the African Union, IGAD, Europe and the United Nations. The President himself, the Vice President and his entire national security team have been involved in this effort around the clock. We are grateful for the support that this committee and you in particular, Mr. Chairman, have given to this effort. We also appreciate the efforts that so many Americans have made to keep a spotlight on the situation in Sudan.
Over the last year, the leaders of Sudan and South Sudan have demonstrated their capacity to work together on the major task of separation and to overcome great odds in their search for peaceful completion of the CPA. Nevertheless, this period has also been marked by armed clashes along the border, a crisis in Abyei, and fighting currently under way in the northern state of Southern Kordofan. Several critical issues regarding relations between the two states that were to be negotiated by July 9 have not been resolved. Thus the situation remains fraught with serious threats to peace. The two states must work to rekindle the spirit of cooperation that was so evident after the referendum of January 9 and which was promised again by the two leaders in the ceremony of July 9.
The CPA parties have made some progress in their negotiations over the past few months, but as I indicated above some of the most important issues namely oil, Abyei and citizenship remain unresolved. How these outstanding issues are managed over the near term will define the future relationship between Sudan and South Sudan. At the IGAD Summit on July 4, President Bashir and President Kiir committed to continue negotiations beyond July 9. We are urging the parties to quickly return to the negotiating table in the coming days and set a firm deadline for completing this unfinished business. The parties should work with the support of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) to finalize mutually-beneficial arrangements, in particular, oil revenues, citizenship, Abyei, and their shared border. Allowing these issues to linger without resolution for too long could destabilize the future relationship between Sudan and South Sudan.
Of particular importance is the contentious issue of Abyei. After months of rising tensions and a buildup of forces by both sides, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) forcefully took over the disputed area of Abyei in May. An estimated 100,000 people were forced to flee their homes. After weeks of intense negotiations, the parties signed an agreement on June 20 outlining temporary arrangements for Abyei, to include the establishment of a new UN peacekeeping force in Abyei and the redeployment of all Sudanese military forces from the area. Secretary of State Clinton met with the parties in Addis Ababa during these talks and played an important role in finalizing this deal. We then led efforts in the UN Security Council to quickly secure a resolution authorizing this new peacekeeping force, which will consist of up to 4,200 Ethiopian peacekeepers.
The violence that flared in Abyei cannot be allowed to return and jeopardize the larger peace. It is critical that the parties move forward with genuinely implementing this agreement over the coming weeks as they continue to work toward a final arrangement on Abyei. The Ethiopian peacekeepers have begun deploying to Abyei. The SAF and Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) must follow through with their commitment to withdraw their forces. Conditions must be put in place to allow those displaced from Abyei to voluntarily return home in safety and dignity as soon as possible. Enormous damage was done to homes and other structures in Abyei and much was looted during the SAF take-over. Considerable assistance will therefore be needed for those returning home. We are working closely with the Ethiopian peacekeeping force, the United Nations humanitarian agencies, and our own USAID to arrange support for a safe, voluntary return. At the same time, as part of their negotiations, the parties need to resolve Abyei’s final status. Negotiations on this matter were delayed by the SAF take-over of the area and the extensive negotiations for assuring the departure of military forces from there. This delay was costly. It will take weeks for the Ethiopian forces to be fully deployed and some time for the displaced to feel it safe to return.
Negotiations on the oil sector are equally important, but they must move on a quicker timetable. By the end of July, there has to be an understanding of how oil will be marketed and sold and to what extent the SPLM will provide some tapering off of reductions of income to the north. Agreement is made more difficult, however, because the SPLM does not want to make such a decision without final agreements on Abyei, the border, and perhaps some other issues. We are thus faced with conflicting timelines. In this situation, it is imperative that if there is no final resolution of oil revenue distribution, there must be an interim agreement by the end of July. Each side has claimed it is ready to shut down the oil flow if there is no agreement, positions that if acted upon would only hurt both sides and above all the people of all Sudan. Thus this issue demands action very soon.
Mr. Chairman, beyond their negotiations with each other, Sudan and South Sudan must also work to establish peace within their respective borders. Despite their separation, both countries have significant diversity and must decide how they will manage that diversity over the coming years. Most immediately, we remain deeply concerned about the situation in the northern border state of Southern Kordofan, an area that is home to tens of thousands of SPLA fighters. The people of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile were promised in the CPA that their political interests would be addressed in a process of popular consultations. Unfortunately, those consultations have not occurred in Southern Kordofan. Tensions increased in Southern Kordofan following the state’s heavily-contested elections in May. The SPLM refused to accept the results of the election in which the sitting Governor was declared the winner. It was in this atmosphere that the Government of Sudan issued an order to the SAF to dissolve the Joint Integrated Units and forcibly disarm SPLA units that remained in the state. On June 5, intense fighting broke out between the SAF and SPLA forces in the state. To date, the fighting has continued, with the SAF carrying out aerial bombardments of SPLA areas. We are extremely concerned by credible allegations of targeted and ethnic-based killings and other gross human rights abuses. These abuses must end, an investigation must be conducted, and perpetrators must be held accountable. The UN estimates that 73,000 people have been displaced by the fighting, and critical access and resupply routes for humanitarian agencies have been blocked.
Negotiations over Southern Kordofan began in Ethiopia in late June under the auspices of the AUHIP. The Government of Sudan and the SPLM-North signed a framework agreement on June 28 outlining new political and security arrangements for Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states. This agreement has the advantage of calling for addressing political issues at the same time as security ones, which is indispensable for reaching an agreement to cease hostilities and lay the groundwork for a longer term settlement. Unfortunately, President Bashir has raised problems with the framework agreement, which puts negotiations at risk. We continue to call on the parties to return to the negotiating table, to recognize the need to address both political and security issues, and to agree on a cessation of hostilities which would allow unfettered humanitarian access. Despite the opposition of Khartoum, we also continue to call on the Government of Sudan to accept a continued UN presence in the two states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile to support a cessation of hostilities, humanitarian access, and the establishment of new security arrangements. We believe, and we know that much of the international community agrees, that it is in their interest to do so. The Security Council has expressed its readiness to authorize continued UN operations if Khartoum consents.
Within Sudan, we also remain deeply concerned about the security and humanitarian crisis in Darfur. Clashes continue to occur in North and South Darfur between the Government of Sudan and an alliance of Darfur rebel groups, notably the Sudanese Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement. The SAF continues to use aerial bombardments as well as proxy militias as part of its military strategy against the movements, thereby resulting in civilian casualties. Conflict and widespread insecurity impact the humanitarian situation negatively and hamper humanitarian organizations from carrying out their activities in the deep field. The GOS continues to obstruct access of UN-African Union peacekeepers and humanitarian organizations struggle to obtain visas and travel permits from the GoS, which undermine the effectiveness and independence of humanitarian efforts. We have consistently pressed the Government of Sudan to provide full and unfettered access for aid workers and peacekeepers, in order to deliver humanitarian assistance across Darfur. Our own humanitarian staff is only able to access Darfur with high level visits. Otherwise, operational access is simply not possible. Although there has been some limited IDP resettlement in West Darfur and a significant increase in seasonal IDP returns for cultivation, around 2 million Darfuris overall remain in IDP camps. Approximately 70,000 additional persons have been displaced since December 2010.
We have invested considerable efforts in pushing the Government of Sudan and the armed movements to commit to serious negotiations in Doha. Two of Darfur’s rebel groups, the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) have participated in the Doha negotiations. The LJM may sign a peace agreement with the Government of Sudan this week; however LJM has little military strength on the ground. Negotiations between JEM and the Government of Sudan have been suspended since early May, and JEM is currently reconsidering its position on the results of the Doha process. We have emphasized to the Government of Sudan that an agreement with the LJM would be a positive step toward peace, but that it must continue to negotiate with the other armed movements. We also will be applying pressure on the non-negotiating armed movements to return to peace talks.
The position of the armed movements is also of concern. Several of them insist that they do not wish to negotiate on Darfur so much as on changes to the regime in Khartoum, and in some cases are determined to pursue that objective through fighting in and beyond Darfur. This position does not permit realistically peace talks with the Government of Sudan. We will also continue to encourage the non-negotiating armed movements to return to peace talks on Darfur. While the Doha process has now come to an end, other venues can be developed if talks are possible. In this regard, we are currently consulting with the AU, the UN and our international partners on a way forward after Doha that builds on progress achieved in Doha and leads to a more comprehensive settlement.
Any successful peace process must engage not only the armed movements, but also the people of Darfur. The UN and the AU have put forward the initiative of a Darfur Political Process, through which Darfuris would express their views on the way forward for a political settlement. However, we feel strongly that the current security and political environment would not lend itself to a credible or legitimate peace process in Darfur. For this reason, we will be coordinating with the AU and the UN on the necessary enabling conditions that we believe must be in place before the U.S. will support a Darfur-based process.
Mr. Chairman, Sudan needs to end its isolation in the international community and secure a more prosperous future for its people. It has a historic opportunity to do so with the completion of the CPA. Sudan faces an uncertain economic future as it adjusts to a significant loss of oil revenue and continues to shoulder nearly $38 billion of debt. Undoubtedly, Sudan is in need of debt relief, access to the resources of the International Financial Institutions, and a sustainable climate for private investment. Provided Sudan fulfills its obligations under the CPA, the United States is prepared to help.
We have laid out a roadmap to normalize our bilateral relations and taken initial steps in that direction. In February, following a successful referendum, the President began the process of reviewing Sudan’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. Last month, the President dispatched Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan to Khartoum to discuss this review and to demonstrate our commitment to this process. Additionally, we have been actively involved in the World Bank technical working group to review the process for Sudan’s debt relief. We have also approved licenses for several American companies wishing to participate in agricultural development in the north.
However, we can only move forward with improved bilateral relations, as outlined in the roadmap, if the Government of Sudan fulfills its obligations under the CPA and demonstrates its commitment to peace within its borders and with its neighbors. A failure to reach a cessation of hostilities will negatively impact this process. U.S. government action to lift remaining U.S. economic sanctions and to request legislative assistance with the removal of applicable foreign assistance restrictions also will be dependent on Sudanese actions in Darfur. We will expect to see concrete actions on humanitarian access, freedom of movement for UNAMID peacekeepers, engagement in peace talks, an end to the use of proxy militias and targeting of civilians, and an improvement in justice and accountability so the reign of impunity in Darfur does not continue. This is not just the position of the United States. It is also the view of other members of the international community and international creditors.
Mr. Chairman, the Government of South Sudan will also depend on international support as it seeks to address its many challenges. South Sudan has some of the lowest development indicators in the world, and its people have high expectations that their lives will improve with independence. Many of its people also remain vulnerable to the activity of armed militias in the border states of Unity, Jonglei, and Upper Nile to the North, and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the state of Equatoria regions to the south. The United States has provided significant support for South Sudan over the years, and we will remain a steadfast partner as South Sudan seeks to peacefully meet these challenges. The strong ties between our peoples go back many decades, and we want to continue to build on that partnership.
Over 15 countries have offered capacity building assistance to the GOSS. Following the Troika development ministers’ visit in May, USAID is working closely with the AU, UN, ADB, EU, India, China, South Africa, Uganda and others to ensure that the ROSS has a viable human capital plan in place to build capacity for key functions in Juba and state governments. This builds upon the work USAID has done over the last 7 years in the Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank of South Sudan, health, education, and agriculture. USAID is working with partners to scale up to ensure that stop gap measure along with medium to long term capacities are being addressed. The United States, the UN, the UK, and other donors will focus on building a human rights culture throughout the GOSS, including the SPLA. All the donors will help in economic development. The United States plans in particular to make a major effort in agricultural production, which can help the vast majority of South Sudanese and for which there is much promise.
To succeed and to sustain international support, the Government of South Sudan must demonstrate its commitment to building an effective, democratic and inclusive government that embodies South Sudan’s diversity, respects human rights and delivers services with transparency and accountability. The eyes of the world will indeed be on South Sudan in the weeks and months ahead. The government must deliver on its commitment to a broad-based, inclusive process to write its permanent constitution. The government must also put in place safeguards to prevent corruption and avoid the pitfalls that have befallen many other oil-producing nations. President Kiir made a strong statement in his inaugural address on these very issues. The United States will work with other international partners to provide advice and support for the government to help him implement those pledges.
Mr. Chairman and other members of the committee, the challenges ahead are great, but the historic occasion last Saturday offers a new beginning for the people of South Sudan and Sudan. Now it is up to the leaders and people of South Sudan and Sudan to turn this moment of promise into lasting peace. We will continue to assist them in this hard work. Over the coming months, the Obama administration’s engagement will be unwavering, and we will be a steadfast partner to all those in Sudan and South Sudan who seek a better future of peace and prosperity.
I would like to thank Richard Solomon and the United States Institute for Peace for inviting me to speak today. It’s an honor to be here. My colleagues and I are avid readers of your reports and policy papers, and we greatly appreciate the regular opportunities to participate in the Institute’s many enriching seminars and conferences. You play a vital role in shaping the public’s interest in foreign policy and in keeping the international community focused on the most critical and important global issues. In Africa, the work the Institute has done on Sudan in recent years has complemented our efforts to support the negotiations, promote local conflict resolution, and bolster civil society. We hope you will continue your work on Sudan and South Sudan in the years ahead.
This afternoon I’d like to make some brief remarks about the opportunities and challenges facing the world’s newest nation, South Sudan. Today’s event comes at a critical time as we look ahead to the opportunities and challenges for Sudan and South Sudan. Independence presents a new opportunity for the people of South Sudan, an opportunity to build a new nation that embodies their values and aspirations. It also presents an opportunity for the people of Sudan to redefine their relationship with the international community and pursue a more prosperous future.
We want to see the people of Sudan and South Sudan seize those opportunities and succeed. But to do that, they must establish a stable and durable peace between their two states, and they must work to promote stability and development within their borders. This will not be easy and it will not happen overnight, but it is doable. The Sudanese have demonstrated their capacity over the last year to work together and overcome great odds. The United States is committed to being a steadfast partner as they continue to work out their remaining differences and build the peace and stability that all Sudanese people desire.
This past Saturday, I joined leaders from around the world in recognizing and celebrating South Sudan’s independence. It was one of the most moving occasions of my time as Assistant Secretary. In Juba, tens of thousands of southern Sudanese endured sweltering heat for hours to celebrate the birth of their new nation. The Government of South Sudan organized a day of pageantry and substance. The proclamation of independence was read. President Salva Kiir took the oath of office and unveiled a statue of John Garang. President Kiir spoke eloquently of the sacrifices endured by millions of Sudanese and the challenges South Sudan faces as the newest and one of the poorest states in the world. Sudanese President Bashir was in attendance and congratulated his hosts, and Sudan followed through on its pledge to be the first country to recognize South Sudan’s independence.
It truly was a historic day for the people of South Sudan.
Just a year ago, last Saturday’s celebration appeared impossible. The peace process between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement had stalled. A return to open conflict seemed possible. Many analysts warned the Southern Sudan referendum was at high risk of delay or would be mired in bitter controversy. Little if any preparation was underway, and many observers doubted northern leaders would allow the referendum to proceed or would accept its results.
Recognizing that the CPA and the Southern Referendum were in serious peril, President Obama committed last year to reenergize the peace effort to make sure that the North and South Sudan did not return to a state of conflict. We intensified our diplomatic engagement with the parties to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), as well as our partners in the African Union, IGAD, the United Nations, the EU, and others. The President, the Vice President and the entire national security team were involved in this effort around the clock. The U.S. Special Envoys for Sudan, first Ambassador Scott Gration and then Ambassador Princeton Lyman, shuttled back and forth to the region, working with the parties to move the process forward. A number of Americans – acting individually and through civil society groups – also deserve a vote of thanks for keeping a spotlight on the situation in Sudan.
Against the odds, the people of Sudan and their leaders came together and organized an on-time referendum in January that was peaceful, credibly and reflected the will of the people. And despite moments of tension and crisis, they have worked together over the past months to enable a peaceful separation. For those of you that have followed Sudan’s history over the years, you know the significance of this achievement. But you also know that the situation remains fragile. Serious threats to peace and security remain, and great challenges lie ahead. The leaders of Sudan and South Sudan must continue to foster a spirit of cooperation as they work to resolve these threats and challenges. This is essential. Because even though they are now two separate countries, their peoples share historic, geographic, and economic ties. And they share common interests. The fate of Sudan and South Sudan are intertwined.
Challenges in the Relationship between South Sudan and Sudan
The challenges are formidable. South Sudan has achieved its independence, but it has not secured its future. First and foremost, Sudan and South Sudan must resolve outstanding issues between them. Over recent months, with the support of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel, chaired by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, the CPA parties have made progress in their negotiations. However, they failed to reach final resolution on several key issues before July 9. The recent fighting in Abyei and in the border state of Southern Kordofan has added additional complexities to the unresolved issues. President Bashir and President Kiir committed at the IGAD Summit on July 4 that they would continue negotiations on the outstanding issues after July 9. They must now turn those commitments into action. Both the parties must return to the negotiating table. They must work to resolve these issues in the shortest possible timeframe. Allowing these issues to linger without resolution for too long could destabilize the future relationship between Sudan and South Sudan and lead to tensions and potentially renewed conflict.
Abyei: Abyei remains a crucial issue for resolution. On May 20 the Sudanese Armed Forces invaded and occupied Abyei, following an unprovoked attack by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army on a UN convoy escorting Sudanese armed forces. The North’s takeover of Abyei brought widespread looting and caused the displacement of an estimated 100,000 people.
The Obama Administration strongly condemned Khartoum’s actions in Abyei and worked with President Mbeki and his team and the UN Security Council to persuade the parties to reach an agreement on new security arrangements for Abyei that would lead to the withdrawal of Sudanese troops and the protection of Abyei by a neutral force. The parties agreed that a new UN peacekeeping force, consisting of roughly 4,200 Ethiopian peacekeepers, would be established to maintain security in Abyei, and that all Sudanese military forces would redeploy from the area. It is critical that the parties fully implement this agreement. The violence that flared in Abyei cannot be allowed to return and jeopardize the larger peace. The parties must work with the AU Panel to reach agreement on the area’s future and final status. They also need to resolve the status of five other disputed areas along the border.
Oil: In addition to Abyei, the parties have not sorted out how they will handle oil assets and other financial transition arrangements. Oil and the revenue it generates are indispensable to the prosperity and welfare of all Sudanese – both North and South. Negotiations on oil are of particular urgency. By the end of July, there must be an understanding on how oil in the South will be marketed and sold and to what extent payments will be made to the North. The parties must reach an interim agreement to keep the oil flowing. We have strongly encouraged both parties to refrain from any unilateral actions that could destabilize the oil sector and cause severe economic shocks.
Citizenship: Another crucial issue is citizenship. There continue to be hundreds of thousands of southerners living and working in the North, and a smaller but significant number of northerners in the South. The parties have agreed to work to ensure that no one is left stateless, and they have agreed in principle on a nine-month transition period in which people can adjust their citizenship status. It is critical that both states follow through on this commitment. We have also called on Sudan and South Sudan to guarantee the rights of work, property, residency, and movement for all former and current Sudanese citizens. We continue to discourage any action that might cause people suddenly to become aliens in areas where they have resided and raised their families for decades.
Internal Challenges and Opportunities for South Sudan
Beyond resolving the outstanding issues of its separation from the North, South Sudan also must address its own internal challenges as a newly independent state. The continued activity of armed militia groups and the proliferation of weapons pose an ongoing security threat. South Sudan needs to make substantially more progress on security sector reform and the demobilization and social reintegration of former fighters over the next year. The United States and South Sudan’s other international partners are actively supporting these efforts.
Without question, South Sudan has some of the worst human development indicators in the world. Much of the country has little transportation infrastructure, no formal educational system, limited health services, and no judicial system. There is very little industry or economic infrastructure outside of Juba.
To build a new nation, South Sudan will need coherent and realistic development plans that build local capacity so that the South Sudanese people can, over the long term, do the building themselves rather than become dependent on outsiders and the donor community. USAID along with South Sudan’s other international development partners have been providing technical expertise aimed at increasing the capacity of the new South Sudanese Government. We have worked closely with the Government of South Sudan from the local to the national levels and will continue to do so.
Transparent and democratic processes need to be put into place so that the Southern Sudanese people can hold their government accountable and have adequate input into decision-making. This is also critical if the Government of South Sudan is to sustain international support. The eyes of the world will indeed be on South Sudan in the weeks and months ahead. It must demonstrate its commitment to avoiding the pitfalls that have befallen many other oil-producing nations. President Kiir said the right things in his inauguration speech, and now his Government must deliver. The United States is committed to helping his Government do so.
Internal Challenges and Opportunities for Sudan
Sudan too must address its own internal problems in the months and years ahead. First and foremost, the Government of Sudan must bring an end to the ongoing conflicts in Southern Kordofan and Darfur.
Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile: At the same time that crisis was unfolding in Abyei, fighting broke out in the northern border state of Southern Kordofan, an area that is home to tens of thousands of SPLA fighters. Some 73,000 people have been displaced by the fighting, which continues. Humanitarian access has been severely restricted, and UN peacekeepers have been harassed and blocked from patrolling. On June 28, with the help of the African Union Panel, the parties signed a framework agreement on political and security arrangements for Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states, but they have not agreed on a cessation of hostilities. And unfortunately, President Bashir has since raised problems with the framework agreement, which puts negotiations at risk. We are continuing to press the parties to bring an end to the fighting, allow unfettered access to humanitarian agencies and to accept a continued UN presence.
Darfur: The Government of Sudan must also finally bring an end to the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Darfur. A just, inclusive and durable settlement in Darfur is critical for a viable and prosperous Sudan in the future. To achieve such a settlement, the Sudanese Government should find ways to improve the economic situation of the Darfuri people while addressing their political concerns. The government must also seek to bring an end to the culture of impunity that has taken hold in Darfur.
One of Darfur’s rebel groups, the Liberation and Justice Movement may sign a peace agreement with the Government of Sudan this week; however one other major group is still on the fence while other rebel movements have refused to take part in the Doha process. We have emphasized to the Government of Sudan that this agreement would be a positive step toward peace, but that it must continue to negotiate with the other armed movements.
The armed rebel movements in Darfur have contributed to the continuation of this conflict and they must take responsibility for working toward its end. During the days ahead, these groups must choose peace over war and recognize that long-term stability and recovery cannot be gained through additional conflict. We believe the non-negotiating movements must return to the peace talks and seek to conclude an agreement with the Sudanese Government.
Economic situation: In addition to resolving the conflicts in Southern Kordofan and Darfur, the Government of Sudan faces considerable economic challenges. With the loss of oil revenues from the south and a crippling debt estimated at $38 billion, the Government of Sudan needs debt relief, access to the International Financial Institutions and a new infusion of foreign investment. It also needs to revitalize its once promising agriculture sector.
The Government of Sudan showed an encouraging commitment to peace in signing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, allowing the referendum to take place, and being the first nation in the world to recognize the independence of the South.
The United States has told the Sudanese Government that we are prepared to improve our bilateral relations if they continue down this path of peace. We have presented them with a roadmap toward normalized relations and taken initial steps in that direction. In February, the President initiated the process of reviewing Sudan’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, and in June the President’s Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan traveled to Khartoum to discuss this review and to demonstrate our commitment to this process. We have also approved licenses for several American companies wishing to participate in agricultural development in Sudan.
The United States has told the Government of Sudan that we are prepared to help with the country’s challenges, and we have already taken initial steps to that end. However, in line with our roadmap, we can only implement this support if Sudan lives up to its CPA obligations and demonstrates its commitment to peace within its borders. This is not just the position of the United States; it is also the position of many other members of the international community and key international creditors.
The Government of Sudan now has a historic opportunity to end its isolation and redefine its relationship with the international community. We hope that Khartoum will seize this opportunity to secure a more prosperous future for its people.
Opportunities for a Shared Future of Partnership
The challenges ahead are daunting, and a great deal of hard work remains to be done. But in closing, I recall the scene I witnessed in Juba on Saturday. The spirit of hope that permeated the air can be built upon for a better future.
As President Obama noted in his statement, South Sudan’s successful independence is “a reminder that after the darkness of war, the light of a new dawn is possible. A proud flag flies over Juba and the map of the world has been redrawn. These symbols speak to the blood that has been spilled, the tears that have been shed, the ballots that have been cast, and the hopes that have been realized by so many millions of people.”
Indeed, the light of a new dawn is possible. The people of Sudan and South Sudan have a historic opportunity today to chart a new future based on partnership, cooperation and shared prosperity. We are committed to working with Sudan and South Sudan toward the goal of two viable states at peace with another. The two nations cannot prosper unless the other is stable and economically viable. While they may be two nations, their fates are linked together by their shared history, people, and economics.
The Obama Administration will work with both countries in the weeks and months ahead to realize this promise of a better future for the people in both the South and the North.
The United States is deeply concerned about alarming and credible allegations of violence committed by Sudan Armed Forces and aligned groups in Southern Kordofan. These include acts of extreme cruelty and abuse against civilians that, if true, may constitute crimes against humanity – extra-judicial killings, house-to-house searches, abductions, arbitrary arrests, and violence motivated by differences of religion or ethnicity.
The United States strongly supports an investigation by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights into these allegations and calls on all parties to provide unfettered access and cooperation to any investigation. We condemn in the strongest terms any deliberate targeting of civilians, including UN humanitarian personnel. The United States will not tolerate impunity for such acts of violence. We have called repeatedly for a cessation of hostilities in South Kordorfan, and we have called on the Government of Sudan to stop aerial bombardments, which continue to hit civilians. We are particularly disturbed by the decision of the Government of Sudan not to honor the June 29 agreement on political and security arrangements in the region. These developments are deeply regrettable.
It is past time for an end to the violence. Today, we call upon the Government of Sudan to agree to a robust UN presence in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile that will assist the parties as they agree to future political and security agreements.
The United States deeply regrets the necessity to vote on this resolution to end the UNMIS mandate. We call on the Government of Sudan yet again to reconsider its demand that UNMIS cease its activities in the Republic of Sudan effective July 9. The mission has a critical role to continue to play in regional stability, especially in the Two Areas.
The United States is sending a clear message along with other Council members that it wants the United Nations to remain in the Two Areas, especially at this critical juncture. With this resolution, the Council has made clear that it is ready to authorize continued UN operations in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile to support new security arrangements, and we will continue over the coming weeks to urge the Government of Sudan to accept this. It is in their interest to do so. We hope others in the international community will continue to encourage Khartoum to accept this.
It is critical that the Government of Sudan cooperate fully with UNMIS as it begins the process of withdrawing.
We continue to be deeply concerned about the fighting in Southern Kordofan, the displacement of civilians, and the ensuing humanitarian crisis. The Government of Sudan and SPLM-North must return to the negotiating table in the coming days and agree to an immediate cessation of hostilities. We call on the Government of Sudan as well to work actively on agreements to bring peace and stability to the border, and in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan states. Thank you Mr. President.