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.
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.
The UN Security Council’s Libya Sanctions Committee approved a U.S. proposal to unfreeze $1.5 billion of Libyan assets to be used to provide critical humanitarian and other assistance to the Libyan people. The U.S. request to unfreeze Libyan assets is divided into three key portions:
Transfers to International Humanitarian Organizations (up to $500 million):
· Up to $120 million will be transferred quickly to meet unfulfilled United Nations Appeal requests responding to the needs of the Libyan people (including critical assistance to displaced Libyans). Up to $380 million will be used for the revised UN Appeals for Libya and other humanitarian needs as they are identified by the UN or other international or humanitarian organizations.
Transfers to suppliers for fuel and other goods for strictly civilian purposes (up to $500 million):
· Up to $500 million will be used to pay for fuel costs for strictly civilian needs (e.g., hospitals, electricity and desalinization) and for other humanitarian purchases.
Transfers to the Temporary Financial Mechanism established by the Contact Group to assist the Libyan people (up to $500 million):
· Up to $400 million will be used for providing key social services, including education and health. Up to $100 million will be used to address food and other humanitarian needs.
The United States crafted this proposal in close coordination with the Transitional National Council, as they assessed the needs of the Libyan people throughout the country. It responds to humanitarian concerns in a diversified way that prioritizes key needs. The United States will work urgently with the Transitional National Council to facilitate the release of these funds within days.
The proposal also has a number of safeguards, including a restriction that none of the funds are used for military equipment or activities. Funds given to the United Nations will be subject to existing UN safeguards. Payments for fuel costs will be confirmed by both the TNC and the vendor. Similarly, the Temporary Financing Mechanism incorporates several accounting and procedural safeguards: a Steering Board with TNC and international members (and consensus decision making); regular internal audits and external audits to be conducted by an internationally respected independent auditing firm; and an independent financial management agent (Adam Smith International) to administer the TFM account.
The United States welcomes the decision by the UN Security Council’s Libya Sanctions Committee to release $1.5 billion dollars in Libyan assets to meet the critical humanitarian needs of the Libyan people. Today’s action demonstrates the international community’s solidarity with the brave people of Libya at this historic moment.
The unprecedented international coalition built upon UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973 prevented mass atrocities in eastern Libya, averted large scale killings of unarmed civilians, and avoided a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. Yet this is not the end of Libya’s transition. It is the beginning. The United States will continue to work with our international partners to support the Libyan people as they chart a democratic, prosperous, and secure future for their country.
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. I just completed a call with my National Security Council on the situation in Libya. And earlier today I spoke to Prime Minister Cameron about the extraordinary events taking place there.
The situation is still very fluid. There remains a degree of uncertainty and there are still regime elements who pose a threat. But this much is clear: The Qaddafi regime is coming to an end, and the future of Libya is in the hands of its people.
In just six months, the 42-year reign of Muammar Qaddafi has unraveled. Earlier this year, we were inspired by the peaceful protests that broke out across Libya. This basic and joyful longing for human freedom echoed the voices that we had heard all across the region, from Tunis to Cairo. In the face of these protests, the Qaddafi regime responded with brutal crackdowns. Civilians were murdered in the streets. A campaign of violence was launched against the Libyan people. Qaddafi threatened to hunt peaceful protestors down like rats. As his forces advanced across the country, there existed the potential for wholesale massacres of innocent civilians.
In the face of this aggression, the international community took action. The United States helped shape a U.N. Security Council resolution that mandated the protection of Libyan civilians. An unprecedented coalition was formed that included the United States, our NATO partners and Arab nations. And in March, the international community launched a military operation to save lives and stop Qaddafi’s forces in their tracks.
In the early days of this intervention the United States provided the bulk of the firepower, and then our friends and allies stepped forward. The Transitional National Council established itself as a credible representative of the Libyan people. And the United States, together with our European allies and friends across the region, recognized the TNC as the legitimate governing authority in Libya.
Qaddafi was cut off from arms and cash, and his forces were steadily degraded. From Benghazi to Misrata to the western mountains, the Libyan opposition courageously confronted the regime, and the tide turned in their favor.
Over the last several days, the situation in Libya has reached a tipping point as the opposition increased its coordination from east to west, took town after town, and the people of Tripoli rose up to claim their freedom.
For over four decades, the Libyan people have lived under the rule of a tyrant who denied them their most basic human rights. Now, the celebrations that we’ve seen in the streets of Libya shows that the pursuit of human dignity is far stronger than any dictator. I want to emphasize that this is not over yet. As the regime collapses, there is still fierce fighting in some areas, and we have reports of regime elements threatening to continue fighting.
Although it’s clear that Qaddafi’s rule is over, he still has the opportunity to reduce further bloodshed by explicitly relinquishing power to the people of Libya and calling for those forces that continue to fight to lay down their arms for the sake of Libya.
As we move forward from this pivotal phase, the opposition should continue to take important steps to bring about a transition that is peaceful, inclusive and just. As the leadership of the TNC has made clear, the rights of all Libyans must be respected. True justice will not come from reprisals and violence; it will come from reconciliation and a Libya that allows its citizens to determine their own destiny.
In that effort, the United States will be a friend and a partner. We will join with allies and partners to continue the work of safeguarding the people of Libya. As remaining regime elements menace parts of the country, I’ve directed my team to be in close contact with NATO as well as the United Nations to determine other steps that we can take. To deal with the humanitarian impact, we’re working to ensure that critical supplies reach those in need, particularly those who have been wounded.
Secretary Clinton spoke today with her counterparts from leading nations of the coalition on all these matters. And I’ve directed Ambassador Susan Rice to request that the U.N. Secretary General use next month’s general assembly to support this important transition.
For many months, the TNC has been working with the international community to prepare for a post-Qaddafi Libya. As those efforts proceed, our diplomats will work with the TNC as they ensure that the institutions of the Libyan state are protected, and we will support them with the assets of the Qaddafi regime that were frozen earlier this year. Above all, we will call for an inclusive transition that leads to a democratic Libya.
As we move forward, we should also recognize the extraordinary work that has already been done. To the American people, these events have particular resonance. Qaddafi’s regime has murdered scores of American citizens in acts of terror in the past. Today we remember the lives of those who were taken in those acts of terror and stand in solidarity with their families. We also pay tribute to Admiral Sam Locklear and all of the men and women in uniform who have saved so many lives over the last several months, including our brave pilots that have executed their mission with skill and extraordinary bravery. And all of this was done without putting a single U.S. troop on the ground.
To our friends and allies, the Libyan intervention demonstrates what the international community can achieve when we stand together as one — although the efforts in Libya are not yet over. NATO has once more proven that it is the most capable alliance in the world and that its strength comes from both its firepower and the power of our democratic ideals. And the Arab members of our coalition have stepped up and shown what can be achieved when we act together as equal partners. Their actions send a powerful message about the unity of our effort and our support for the future of Libya.
Finally, the Libyan people: Your courage and character have been unbreakable in the face of a tyrant. An ocean divides us, but we are joined in the basic human longing for freedom, for justice and for dignity. Your revolution is your own, and your sacrifices have been extraordinary. Now, the Libya that you deserve is within your reach. Going forward, we will stay in close coordination with the TNC to support that outcome. And though there will be huge challenges ahead, the extraordinary events in Libya remind us that fear can give way to hope and that the power of people striving for freedom can bring about a brighter day.
Thank you very much.
Moderator: Ambassador Rice is on the line. Go ahead Ambassador.
Ambassador Rice: Thank you. This is an important and strong statement. It was long overdue. Finally we were able to speak with one voice in clearly condemning the violence perpetrated against civilians by the Syrian government and call for a halt to the violence and insist that what has transpired is utterly unacceptable, was an important step and we were pleased that the Council was able to do so today. Let me let you guys ask a couple of questions.
Reporter: Didn’t you want a resolution?
Ambassador Rice: Well obviously the sponsors began with a resolution. We strongly supported that. But as I said a few days ago when asked this, from the United States’ point of view, what was most important to us was strong content—and a clear and unified condemnation. We didn’t want a split Council and we didn’t want a weak statement. And as I said when we spoke about this on Monday, what was most important from a U.S. point of view was a clear and unequivocal condemnation of the Syrian authorities for the abhorrent and crazy violence they perpetrated against their own people. And we got that and so we’re pleased.
Reporter: What is your anticipation, Ambassador, that, what impact this will have on the Assad regime?
Ambassador Rice: Well I think the Assad regime has been counting on the fact that the Security Council would be unable to speak. And that they would not be condemned. And that they would have protectors and defenders that would make it impossible for that condemnation to emerge. And surely they must be quite surprised and disappointed by the outcome.
And hopefully, the people of Syria will get the sense that there are many in the international community, including in the Security Council, who are deeply concerned, profoundly troubled by the violence, who see their efforts and their peaceful protest as just. And the government will hopefully also be chastened by the strength and the unity of the condemnation. And obviously our over-arching goal, first and foremost, is for the violence to stop and the people of Syria to have the opportunity to chart their own course and have a democratic future.
Reporter: Why did the U.S. oppose the investigation?
Ambassador Rice: I couldn’t hear the question.
Reporter: Ambassador Rice, why did the U.S. oppose including an investigation into the violence in the statement?
Ambassador Rice: We felt it was important, basically, that people be held accountable. And that language was retained. We had some back and forth in the Council about whether it was, whether a statement about an investigation that did not make absolutely explicit that there would not be a role for the Syrian authorities in it was viable. We thought that it was preposterous, the original formulation that the Syrian government would be asked to conduct a credible and impartial investigation into its own behavior. We looked at some other formulations, none of which, in our judgment, were sufficient in excluding the Syrian government from any credible and impartial investigation in the current context.
So our interest was in being able to actively uphold international law, that their abuses are unacceptable and condemnable, and that those who have been responsible for the violence need to be held accountable.
Reporter: Could you tell us what concessions your side made to not have the violence equated by both sides and does the Lebanese…
Ambassador Rice: We didn’t make any concessions. We did not make any concessions. We negotiated and obtained a very strong, clear-cut condemnation. That’s a large part of the reason why we think this is a very strong outcome. And with respect to the Lebanese statement, the Lebanese allowed this Council to speak with one voice. It was a unanimous statement by the Security Council and we don’t view their statement after the fact as in any way undermining that unity.
I met today with a small group of U.S.-based Syrian activists and members of the Syrian-American community to express our profound sympathy for all Syrian victims of the Assad regime’s abuse of its own citizens. In our discussion, the activists reaffirmed the internal opposition’s vision of a transition plan for a Syria that will be representative, inclusive and pluralistic; a new, united Syria with a government subject to the rule of law and fully respectful of the equality of all Syrians, irrespective of sect, ethnicity or gender. I encouraged the activists to work closely with their colleagues inside Syria to create this unified vision.
I admire the courage of those brave Syrians, both inside and outside Syria, who continue to defy their government’s brutality in order to freely express their universal rights. And I remain confident in the Syrian people’s ability to chart a new course for Syria’s future.
As I told the activists today, the United States will continue to support the Syrian people in their efforts to begin a peaceful and orderly transition to democracy in Syria and to have their aspirations realized. We have nothing invested in the continuation of a regime that must kill, imprison and torture its own citizens to maintain power.
The United States is working to move forward with additional targeted sanctions under existing authorities. We are exploring broader sanctions that will isolate the Assad regime politically and deny it revenue with which to sustain its brutality. The United Nations Security Council has also consulted this week on the escalating violence in Syria. Our view remains that strong action by the Security Council on the targeting of innocent civilians in Syria is long overdue. Some members of the Security Council continue to oppose any action that would call on President Assad to stop the killing, and we urge them to reconsider their positions.