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.
The United States strongly condemns the Syrian government’s outrageous use of violence across Syria today and particularly in the northwestern region. There must be an immediate end to the brutality and violence. We regret the loss of life and extend our condolences to all those who have suffered. Earlier this week, we urged the Syrian government to exercise maximum restraint and not to respond to its own reported losses through additional civilian casualties. The Syrian government is leading Syria on a dangerous path. For that reason, it is critical that all Syrians remain united, work to prevent sectarian conflict, and pursue their aspirations peacefully. We stand by the Syrian people who have shown their courage in demanding dignity and the transition to democracy that they deserve.
Syrian security forces continue to shoot, assault, and arrest demonstrators and political prisoners remain detained. It’s this kind of appalling violence that leads the United States to support a UN Security Council Resolution condemning the Syrian government’s actions and calling for an immediate halt to the violence and abuse of basic human rights.