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.
Through Resolution 2009, the Council has unanimously affirmed its willingness to support the Libyan people in their efforts to restore order and bring about democracy. In this resolution, as well as the General Assembly’s approval earlier today of the Transitional National Council’s credentials to represent Libya, we all stand witness to the birth of a new Libya.
This resolution responds directly to the requests from the Transitional National Council for international assistance during this period of change. We encourage the United Nations, including through its newly-established UN Support Mission in Libya, to develop a close and collaborative relationship with Libya’s new leaders. We look forward to the naming of a Special Representative of the Secretary General to lead the new mission, and we are encouraged by the Secretary-General’s determination to get UN personnel on the ground as soon as possible.
We wish to express our profound appreciation for the service of Special Envoy Abdul Ilah al-Khatib, and we look forward to continued close cooperation with post-conflict coordinator Ian Martin as he works with the TNC on transition issues in the days ahead.
The United States particularly welcomes the Council’s decision to scale back and modify the sanctions the Council imposed on Libya seven months ago in response to Qadhafi’s violence against his people.
As a result, the Libyan authorities will be able to reenergize the Libyan economy while some measures are kept in place to ensure that previously-frozen funds are released in a transparent and responsible way—as the situation normalizes and the transition proceeds—and are released in the interest of the people of Libya.
In the weeks and months and ahead, we hope that the Council, in close consultation with the new Libyan government, will respond to the situation on the ground by adopting further resolutions to provide support for the Libyan people.
As Libya begins this new era, the United States offers our very best wishes to the Libyan people, who suffered for many years under one of the world’s most brutal dictatorships. We stand fully ready to assist Libya’s citizens in building a new society based on democracy, pluralism and the rule of law.
Thank you, Mr. President.
FACT SHEET: New Security Council Resolution Supports the Libyan People in their Transition to a More Democratic, Prosperous Future
The Security Council has adopted a new resolution to promote Libya’s recovery from its recent conflict and support its transition to a free society. This resolution mandates a new, three-month UN mission that will assist Libyan efforts to restore security and the rule of law, protect human rights, and undertake an inclusive political dialogue towards establishing a democratic government. It also begins the process of unwinding UN sanctions that were imposed last spring in response to the Qadhafi regime’s brutal attacks on the Libyan people. Although some measures will remain in place, ensuring that funds previously frozen are released in a transparent and responsible way, the Libyan authorities are now able to pursue a reenergized Libyan economy.
Supports efforts by Libya’s National Transitional Council (TNC) to restore stability and bring democracy to Libya.
The Security Council underscored the need for an inclusive, representative political process that will bring good governance and the rule of law to Libya.
The Security Council also encouraged Libya’s new leaders to restore government services, protect human rights, ensure the safety of foreign nationals in Libya, and comply with Libya’s international obligations.
Provides a mandate for a three-month UN support mission to Libya.
The Council established a UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) that will assist efforts by the Libyan authorities to restore public security and the rule of law; undertake an inclusive political dialogue; embark upon the establishment of a constitution and electoral process; promote and protect human rights; and coordinate international assistance.
UNSMIL will be headed by a Special Representative of the Secretary-General.
Creates new exemptions to the UN arms embargo.
States are now free to provide security assistance to the new Libyan authorities, provided that they notify the Security Council’s Libya Sanctions Committee.
A new exemption to the arms embargo makes it easier for UN, media and humanitarian personnel to protect themselves.
The existing UN arms embargo otherwise stays in place, allowing international partners to help prevent dangerous weapons flows into and out of Libya.
Lifts sanctions entirely on key Libyan oil companies.
By terminating sanctions on Libya’s most important economic sector, this resolution jumpstarts Libya’s economic recovery.
Facilitates the resumption of economic activity.
Financial transactions with the Libyan Central Bank and other important Libyan institutions are now permitted.
Assets that were previously frozen as a result of the UN sanctions will remain frozen until the Libyan institutions are well-positioned to receive them.
A new sanctions exemption allows states, in consultation with the Libyan authorities, to unfreeze funds for certain urgent needs.
Eases restrictions on Libyan-operated aircraft flying abroad.
Libyan-owned and -operated aircraft will now be able to make humanitarian and other authorized flights, thereby facilitating the resumption of additional air traffic, provided that the flights are authorized through the existing NATO process.
Keeps in place the no-fly zone and protection of civilians provisions.
In light of continued fighting in some parts of Libya, member states and NATO will continue to be authorized to use force to enforce the no-fly zone, protect civilians and enforce the arms embargo.
The Council will keep these measures under continuous review and lift them when circumstances permit.
Thank you very much, Mr. President. On behalf of Ambassador Churkin, with whom I co-led the trip to Sudan, I would like to make the following report.
Unfortunately, the situation in Abyei rapidly deteriorated as we traveled to the region. Thus, our mission had three overriding purposes: first, to urge a halt to the fighting and to restore calm to Abyei; second, to press the North and the South to quickly resolve all outstanding issues necessary to pave the way for two peaceful and successful states beginning on July 9; and third, to better understand what an independent South Sudan will need from the UN and the international community.
The crisis in Abyei affected both our itinerary and our agenda, and we were unable to visit the Abyei area, as planned. But being on the ground in Sudan enabled us to press this critical issue with both parties and to respond to the emerging crisis in real time. That included issuing a strong press statement while we were in Khartoum that called for the immediate withdrawal of all forces from Abyei and its environs.
Our visit to Sudan included travel not only to Khartoum, but to Wau, Juba and Malau.
We began in Khartoum, where we met with several government officials. Foreign Minister Karti unfortunately was ill and did not join our meeting as planned. However, we met with Minister of State for the Presidency Amin Hassan Omer, Ambassador Daffa-Alla Osman, our colleague here, and a number of other Sudanese interlocutors. We reiterated the Council’s commitment to support two viable and successful states as of July 9. We emphasized the need for a peaceful resolution to the Abyei conflict. We deplored the May 19 attack on the UNMIS convoy and pointed out that the escalatory response from the Sudanese Armed Forces was unacceptable and constituted a gross violation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
We expressed the Council’s deep concern over the level of violence in Darfur and the Sudanese government’s continued restrictions on humanitarian and UNAMID access. We asked the Government of Sudan to fulfill its commitment to process all UNAMID visas in a timely manner—an urgent issue, given that UNAMID had more than 800 visa requests pending at the time of our meeting. The government said that it would follow through on its visa commitments. It also reaffirmed its support for the Doha process and committed to lifting the State of Emergency in Darfur after the adoption of a final document from the Doha negotiations.
The Council also stressed the need for the government to protect the rights of Southerners living in the North. The government assured us that the basic rights of Southerners in the North would be protected.
The Sudanese canceled a previously scheduled meeting with Vice President Taha at the last minute. As Ambassador Churkin explained at the press conference later that day, this was an important missed opportunity by the government to discuss with the Council Abyei and other pressing issues.
Separately, we received informative briefings on UNMIS and UNAMID that added to our understanding of their work and the challenges that they face in the field day to day. Joint Special Representative Gambari and Force Commander Nyamvumba detailed the increasingly robust posture of UNAMID. We welcomed the news that the mission has increased its patrols to an average of 160 per day, up from approximately 90 per day in late 2010. The humanitarian briefing, however, was dispiriting. We learned that only 250 or so international staff remain in Darfur, which, as you all know, is an area roughly the size of France. That number used to be around 1,000.
In Khartoum, we also met with former President Thabo Mbeki, the chair of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel. He helpfully outlined his efforts to facilitate negotiations on outstanding CPA issues and the key post-referendum arrangements. President Mbeki emphasized that we are at the point where these arrangements must be resolved by the parties at a senior political level. The Council agreed and expressed its strong support for his ongoing work.
We visited the Mayo camp for internally displaced persons on the outskirts of Khartoum, where we heard the concerns of Southerners about a lack of protection, health care, education, and job prospects. Many have lived in the camp for decades, but all expressed a keen desire to return to the South. These hopes remain largely unrealized for this group in the face of poverty, insufficient transportation, and security concerns. Some returnees have reportedly been attacked as they journeyed back to the South.
We met with Misseriya and Ngok Dinka representatives as well during our time in Sudan. We felt that it was critical to hear firsthand from both groups. In each meeting, we emphasized the Council’s commitment to implementing the CPA and finding a peaceful solution to the crisis in Abyei.
After Khartoum, the Council visited Wau in Western Bahr El Ghazal, South Sudan. We were moved by the deep commitment of the staff at the Mary Health Center. Excuse me, Help Center. Our tour of its health clinic, school, and related facilities underscored the lack of infrastructure throughout the South. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with students and representatives of civil society organizations. They described their excitement for independence, as well as the vast challenges still to be overcome. Several asked for the international community’s help in demarcating the North-South border and helping create a buffer zone between Northern and Southern forces. We heard repeatedly of the economic hardship caused by the North’s recent closure of several border crossings. Above all, we heard a strong yearning for greater educational opportunities and better health care.
From Wau, we went to Juba, where the Council had a productive meeting with President Salva Kiir, Vice President Riek Machar and Government of South Sudan’s ministers. We reiterated our view that the fates and well-being of the peoples of the North and South are intertwined and urged both parties to resume and intensify their dialogue to resolve the status of Abyei and all remaining issues. We reiterated our grave concern regarding events in Abyei, including the Council’s condemnation of the SPLA attack on the UN convoy on May 19. President Kiir agreed that stability in the South depends on a stable neighbor in the North. He provided a broad overview of the remaining CPA and post-referendum issues and, with respect to Abyei, expressed regret to the United Nations for the attack on its convoy.
The Council traveled by helicopter to Malau, a small village in Jonglei State, to view a demonstration by a newly-formed livestock-protection unit. The tour of Malau underscored the magnitude of the challenges facing the South, particularly with respect to internal security. While the livestock-protection unit is a worthy initiative, the economic, social, and political effects of cattle rustling and associated child abduction remain daunting.
We later visited Jebel Kujur, a way station in Juba, operated by the UNHCR, where vulnerable returnees are provided with food, water, and medical services while IOM arranges for their onward transport. We spoke with recent returnees as they waited to load their possessions onto buses to continue their journey to other parts of the South. Nearly 341,000 Southerners living in the North have returned to Southern Sudan and the Three Areas between October 30, of last year and May 3, of 2011.
We made a point, again, of including civil society groups in as much of our program as possible. In particular, we had a working lunch in Juba with a wide range of representatives of nongovernmental organizations. Their work to provide services is inspiring.
The Council also conducted an important initial discussion regarding the successor mission to UNMIS, which we are continuing in New York. Last week’s consultations were another important step in this ongoing assessment.
Mr. President, throughout our time in Sudan, we emphasized the Council’s commitment to the full implementation of the CPA—and the need for the parties to resolve outstanding issues before the South’s independence on July 9. The crisis in Abyei only reiterates the urgency of meeting this deadline. We urge the leaders with whom we met to act quickly to reach the political compromises necessary to facilitate two peaceful and successful states emerging next month, when we will welcome the Republic of South Sudan to the international community.
Thank you, Mr. President.
The Security Council expresses grave concern about the ongoing violence and rapidly deteriorating situation in Abyei since the Council addressed the issue in its May 22 Press Statement, in which the Council condemned the attack by Southern forces against a United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) convoy escorting Sudanese Armed Forces elements of Joint Integrated Units on May 19 in Abyei, and also condemned the escalatory military operations being undertaken by the Sudanese Armed Forces, which have taken control of the area in and around Abyei town.
The Security Council strongly condemns the Government of Sudan’s taking and continued maintenance of military control over the Abyei Area and the resulting displacement of tens of thousands of residents of Abyei. The Council calls on the Sudanese Armed Forces to ensure an immediate halt to all looting, burning, and illegal resettlement. The Council stresses that all those responsible for violations of international law, including humanitarian and human rights law, as well as those who ordered those acts, will be held accountable. The Council expresses grave concern about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the area and praises the efforts of the humanitarian community to deliver emergency assistance, including food, health care, shelter, and water, to those affected by the conflict, despite continued insecurity in the region and despite severe limitations on access.
The Security Council condemns the fact that two of the three main supply routes from the North to the South have been blocked, and that the Banton Bridge in Southern Abyei was destroyed by the Sudanese Armed Forces, which impedes needed trade and makes the return of civilians to Abyei more difficult. The Council calls for immediate measures to restore full access through all routes.
The Security Council calls on all parties to respect humanitarian principles and allow all humanitarian personnel timely and unfettered access to vulnerable individuals and communities affected by the fighting. The Council further calls for conditions to be created that would allow the prompt and safe return of those displaced from their homes.
The Security Council strongly condemns all attacks against UNMIS, including those of May 24 and May 19, which are criminal acts against a UN mission and its personnel and which threaten to undermine the commitment of the parties to avoid a return to war.
The Security Council recalls the commitments made by Vice President Ali Osman Taha and First Vice President Salva Kiir that both parties shall remove any unconditional claims to Abyei in their draft national constitutions and urges the parties to avoid inflammatory rhetoric, especially from the leadership, which undermines the mutual commitment of the parties to resolve all remaining Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and post-CPA issues peacefully through negotiation. The Council again urges both parties to honor these commitments.
The Security Council expresses grave concern following the reports about the unusual, sudden influx of thousands of Misseriya into Abyei town and its environs that could force significant changes in the ethnic composition of the area. The Council condemns all unilateral actions meant to create facts on the ground that would prejudice the outcome of negotiations. The Council expresses its determination that the future status of Abyei shall be resolved by negotiations between the parties in a manner consistent with the CPA and not by the unilateral actions of either party.
The Security Council reiterates that the continued military operations of the Government of Sudan and militia activities in Abyei constitute a serious violation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the Kadugli agreements. The Council demands that the Government of Sudan withdraw immediately from the Abyei Area. The Council further demands the immediate withdrawal of all military elements from Abyei. The Council demands that the Government of Sudan and the Government of Southern Sudan cooperate fully with the Special Representative of the Secretary General of UNMIS and the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), led by President Thabo Mbeki, to establish immediately a viable security arrangement for Abyei, supported by UNMIS, in which all Sudanese Armed Forces, Sudan People’s Liberation Army, and allied forces withdraw from the Abyei Area. The Council notes that UNMIS remains ready to assist in the implementation of all relevant agreements reached by the parties. The Council underscores that failure by the Government of Sudan to comply with and to fulfil the CPA jeopardizes the benefits that could flow from such compliance.
Given the ongoing insecurity in Abyei, the Security Council believes that the security and prosperity of both parties would benefit from a continuing UN-mandated presence in Abyei after July 9, as well as from UN assistance for the parties’ management of their border after the independence of South Sudan. In this context, the Council urges the parties to reach agreement on a continuing UN-mandated presence.
The Security Council stresses that both parties will have much to gain if they show restraint and choose the path of dialogue, including ongoing high level negotiations between the parties and negotiations under the auspices of the AUHIP and its chair President Thabo Mbeki, instead of resorting to violence or provocations.
The Security Council expresses deep concern about tensions in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan States. The Council calls for discussions about post-CPA political and security arrangements for Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan States to resume immediately and for all parties to refrain from unilateral action pending the outcome of those negotiations. The Council stresses that CPA structures intended to stabilize the security situation in the Two Areas, specifically the deployment of Joint Integrated Units, should continue until their expiration on July 9. The Council calls on both parties to work to reduce tensions and promote calm in this sensitive region. The Council further underscores the need for the parties to respect the mandate of UNMIS.
The Security Council underscores the responsibility of the parties to protect civilians, and to respect UNMIS’s Chapter VII mandate for protection of civilians under imminent threat of physical violence in Abyei. In this regard, the Council condemns in the strongest terms ongoing threats and intimidation against UNMIS elements. The Council expresses its strong ongoing support for the UN Mission in Sudan, under the able leadership of SRSG Haile Menkerios.
The Security Council will remain seized of this matter and will meet to review the implementation of this statement in the coming days.
Ambassador Rice: Good afternoon, everyone. I just wanted to comment briefly on the decision taken today by Syria to withdrawal its candidacy for the Human Rights Council. We believe that this is the result of the good sense of the member states of the Asia Group, who determined that they were unwilling to lend sufficient support to a country whose human rights record is deplorable and who is in the process of killing its own people on the streets, arresting thousands, and terrorizing a population that is seeking to express itself through largely peaceful means.
We think that this is a welcome step, an important step, and is one in a series of recent steps that have indicated that the trend line for the performance of both the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council—and the General Assembly in relation to the Human Rights Council—is beginning to move in a more positive direction. We note this decision, we note the decision to suspend Libya’s membership in the wake of what has transpired there. We also note the decision of the Human Rights Council to establish a special rapporteur for Iran, to establish a commission of inquiry for Syria, as well as to take appropriate steps in the case of Cote D’Ivoire. And we think all of these are indications that the Human Rights Council has the potential to begin to live up to its purposes.
Happy to take a couple questions.
Reporter: Will the Security Council be able to catch up with this trend in regard to Syria, Yemen and Bahrain?
Ambassador Rice: Well—speaking for the United States, we have been very clear and consistent and forceful in our condemnations of all attacks by governments on innocent civilians who are seeking simply to express their legitimate aspirations for greater freedom, greater economic opportunity, and a better future. And we have done so consistently. This Council has acted robustly in certain instances and been unable to reach consensus in other instances. I think that is in part a function of the fact that each of these are different cases, that each member of the Council perceives them differently and has different interests. And I have, when asked about whether one data point or two create a trend line, I have said in my judgment, I don’t think so. And I don’t want to predict what, if anything, may come subsequently from this Council. We will continue, as the United States, our very clear and forceful condemnation of what’s transpired in Syria and Yemen and elsewhere.
In the case of Syria, we have ourselves imposed significant additional sanctions, as has the European Union. And we’ll continue to have consultations with our colleagues and partners here in New York about appropriate potential next steps.
Reporter: Ambassador, do you think that countries should be more democratic than Kuwait to be members? And what about, what’s your comment on Syria running in 2013?
Ambassador Rice: Well on the second point, let’s see where we are in ‘13, and what they in fact intend to do. We are a week out from the elections this year and much has changed in the last twelve hours. So I think predictions are premature. And I don’t want to get into commentary on each of the 191 other members’ human rights records, but suffice it to say that we think that Kuwait standing on the Asia slate and representing the Arab group is a very positive step.
Reporter: Concerning the issue of Syria at the Security Council, would it be better to have a resolution presented so that we could see who is voting, not voting, to make it clear who is blocking on the issue?
Ambassador Rice: What we think is most important is that there be no ambiguity about the international outrage and condemnation at the behavior of the Syrian government. And we think today’s action in the Asia group underscored that, and we think that whatever the Council does ought to underscore that. Thank you.