Ambassador Rice: Good evening. The brutal violence being used by the Government of Syria against its own people is abhorrent and deplorable, and the United States condemns it in the strongest terms. The outrageous use of violence to quell protests must come to an end – and now. The Syrian Government’s actions to repeal the decade’s old emergency law and allow for peaceful demonstrations were clearly not serious, given the continued violent repression against protesters. The United States is currently pursuing a range of possible policy options, including additional targeted sanctions, to respond to the crackdown and make clear that this behavior is unacceptable.
The Syrian people’s call for freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly and to choose their leaders freely must be heard. We strongly oppose the Syrian government’s treatment of its citizens and we continue to oppose its continued destabilizing behavior more generally – including support for terrorism and terrorist groups. Instead of listening to their own people, President Assad is disingenuously blaming outsiders, while at the same time seeking Iranian assistance in repressing Syria’s citizens, through the same brutal tactics that have been used by the Iranian regime. The United States will continue to stand up for democracy and respect for human rights, the universal rights that all human beings deserve in Syria and around the world. I’m happy to take a couple of questions.
Reporter: Ambassador, there is talk about probably dealing with Libya in a more definitive decisive way than dealing with the Syria issue. How hard of a time are you having with members, fellow members of the Security Council bringing the issue of Syria to the Security Council? And do you agree with some of the calls by different groups that it is time to start to think of moving on to the ICC in terms of accountability and the responsibility to protect, as well applying it to Syria as it was applied to Libya.
Ambassador Rice: Well, we certainly strongly support a discussion of the situation in Syria by the Security Council. We had an initial discussion today. We’ll have a more detailed briefing and discussion tomorrow. And we think that is appropriate, given the gravity of the situation and the concerns that we all share for the civilians that are at risk at present in Syria and the potential of this conflict to have implications for regional peace and security. But each of these situations is different. They are different in terms of their origins, of their consequences, and they will be different in terms of the action that is feasible and indeed desirable here from the Security Council.
Reporter: Ambassador. Two things, one given what you described as the abhorrent situation here, why isn’t there a quick agreement – I know you’re going to talk about it tomorrow – a quick agreement on some sort of statement? Obviously you left the meeting today without it. Number two, can you expand on what you said about Iranian influence in this situation?
Ambassador Rice: Well, first of all, Bill, we think that – this discussion today as you know was a briefing by the Secretary General on his trip and a handful of other topical issues. It was not an extensive briefing of the sort that we had last week for instance on Yemen and that we all agreed to seek tomorrow on Syria. So we will have that briefing. We will have a discussion about what reaction if any the Council can agree on and we will consider where to take this issue further. So we just haven’t had a full opportunity to do that yet and I hope that we will soon do so.
Reporter: How about the Iranian influence?
Ambassador Rice: With respect to – I’m not going to get into a great deal of detail on that, but we have said repeatedly that we are very conscious of and concerned by the evidence of active Iranian involvement and support on behalf of the Syrian government in its repression of its people. Thank you very much.