Ambassador Rice: Just wanted to say a few things on the briefing today. This morning we had a very important briefing from SRSG Mahiga on Somalia. Also, a very disturbing humanitarian update from Catherine Bragg, of OCHA, and we are in the process of continuing that discussion behind closed doors in the Council consultations room. The United States underscored our strong support for the work of SRSG Mahiga, for the good work of AMISOM. And we’re also very much committed to the Kampala Accord and its successful implementation. And we’re looking to the TFIs to ensure that they meet their commitments by August of 2012.
On the humanitarian side, the United States is deeply, deeply concerned about the rapidly deteriorating situation. We heard today from Catherine Bragg that things are even more dire than when she last briefed last month. The United States remains the largest donor of bilateral assistance to the Horn of Africa emergency. We provided over 560 million dollars—565 million dollars—this fiscal year alone, including an additional 105 million announced by the President earlier this week. And we will continue to be as active as we possibly can in support of the people of Somalia and the region. And we will also continue to encourage maximal international support for what is the worst famine and humanitarian crisis to strike Africa in 60 years, with some over 12 million people in Somalia and the region at immediate risk. So, this is one, as you have heard my President, Secretary of State, Dr. Jill Biden, and so many others say, that requires the full and immediate support and attention of the entire international community.
This afternoon, as you know, we will talk about Syria again. This is a follow on to the Presidential statement that we adopted last week, which was a clear and strong condemnation of the violence being perpetrated by the Assad regime. We think that violence has to stop. We are mindful of the fact and encouraged by the fact that there’s now a growing chorus of international condemnation—the Security Council spoke last week, we have seen important statements from the GCC, from the Arab League, from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. We’ve seen steps by Kuwait and Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to withdraw their Ambassadors, and we also have seen a very strong message that Turkey has delivered in the person of the Foreign Minister, most recently yesterday. And we hope very much that the delegation that’s being sent by the IBSA countries will echo that very strong message that the violence has to stop—they need to pull back into barracks and be credible about this reform process, which, to date, they have absolutely failed to do. From the United States’ point of view, we’re going to continue and intensify our pressure both through our national actions and additional sanctions, as well as coordinated efforts with other partners here in New York and around the world.
Let me say one other thing before I take a couple of questions. I’m pleased to announce today that Ambassador Jeff DeLaurentis has joined—rejoined, in fact—our mission as our Ambassador for special political affairs—in other words, our Security Council Ambassador. Some of you may remember him from his distinguished tenure as our political coordinator. He comes to us from the State Department, where he was most recently the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.
Reporter: (inaudible) I’d like to ask you your opinion about this idea (inaudible) have been voted such as appointing Special Representative of the SG to Syria? The other one is making Syria an item on the agenda, instead of discussing it under the Middle East? And also presenting an invitation to Navi Pillay to brief the Council?
Ambassador Rice: We’re attracted to all those steps and other like steps that would elevate the profile of Syria on the Council agenda and bring the needed attention to this crisis that we think is long overdue. So we are working with partners on the Council on a range of ideas—among those, the ones you mentioned.
Reporter: What do you hope to achieve from bringing Navi Pillay over here? I mean, we know that a vote to establish a committee—a fact-finding committee—that Syria hasn’t allowed them to go in, that Syria still stops all the humanitarian aid workers to enter…what do you hope to achieve?
Ambassador Rice: Let me be plain. From the United States point of view we always welcome timely reporting to the Council by the High Commissioner for Human Rights on all sorts of topics of concern. Now, foremost, at the present, is, of course, the situation in Syria. And we’re frustrated that the Commission of Inquiry that was mandated by the Human Rights Council has been unable to do its work. That was a message that we tried to underscore in our Presidential statement last week. And we would certainly welcome Navi Pillay’s input and perspective to inform our deliberations in the Council.
Reporter: Given that fact that President Assad doesn’t seem to have reacted to Presidential statement (inaudible)…Do you think there is a move in the Council for branching out pressure and taking additional steps (inaudible)… is the United States taking steps that they’re trying to get other Council members to take?
Ambassador Rice: Well, the United States acts both in the context of the Security Council and in our bilateral and other regional relationships. So we are working across the board to underscore that the behavior of Assad is absolutely unacceptable, he has lost any legitimacy to lead and we think it is past—it would be much, much better for the people of Syria, and Syria would be better off, without Assad. And we are looking to the future and looking to lend support to the people of Syria who have the same aspirations for freedom and democracy that we’ve seen in so many other parts of the world. So we’ll continue our discussions and our efforts here in New York as well as elsewhere.
I am not… I am loath to predict how exactly the Council may respond in the future. I think Council members have been moved by what they have seen of late, in the intensifying and horrific violence against civilians. But we’ve also been frustrated, quite candidly, that it has taken the Council as long as it has to be able to speak with one voice. And we think that it’s past time for all Council members to put the interests of the Syrian people, rather than particular bilateral issues or interests, at the forefront of their action, and for the Council to continue, as it did last week, with our strong support to deliver a very strong message that what is happening in Syria is unacceptable and it needs to be stopped.
Ambassador Rice: We’ve been very clear that, as I said, that Syria, in our judgment, would be better off without Assad, and that he’s lost his legitimacy. But beyond that I don’t have anything to add.
Reporter: (inaudible)…saying to President Assad…to step down? Are you calling on President Assad to step down?
Ambassador Rice: What I’m saying is that, in the view of the United States, he has lost his legitimacy to rule and Syria would be a better place without him.
Reporter: (inaudible)…my question actually…about the…Security Council…the message…is that the idea…action by the ICC for example? What action do you have in mind…what options?
Ambassador Rice: Well, that is a potential avenue, but, as you know, that requires the full support of the Council. And I think if we were talking about whether that would be forthcoming today, I would have to say, quite candidly, I doubt it. But there are other avenues, there are other investigations, there’s the one we’ve just discussed with the Human Rights Council. And certainly, from the United States point of view, and that of others, to the extent that we have evidence of crimes we would share that quite readily with any in a position to investigate.
Reporter: On Somalia, it is said that the U.S. is seeking additional sanctions against Eritrea. Is that true? And if so, why? And on human rights reporting, are you frustrated that the South Kordofan human rights report hasn’t yet been released by the UN? And what should the UN be doing about those people in South Kordofan?
Ambassador Rice: The United States is very, very concerned about Eritrea’s behavior in the region. Its support for Al-Shabaab, its support to destabilize its neighbors is documented quite thoroughly and persuasively in the report of the special panel. We heard during the session last month from virtually all of Eritrea’s neighbors that they face a pattern of destabilization that is quite troubling and quite disturbing. Moreover, we’re profoundly troubled and we have clearly condemned the support that Eritrea lent to the terrorist attack that was planned for—to coincide with the African Union summit last January in Addis Ababa. We think that’s an absolutely abhorrent development, and we think it merits the full attention of the Council. Yes, the United States is very much interested in additional pressure and sanctions being applied on Eritrea. This is something that we’ll continue to discuss and debate in the Security Council. But from the U.S. point of view, we think that that is timely.
Reporter: …is there a famine in Eritrea? The idea of imposing sanctions …
Ambassador Rice: Well, first of all, any measures to be contemplated would be carefully targeted and would not go in any way to harm the people of Eritrea, who are suffering enough as it is. We believe there is a famine in Eritrea, but we’re deeply concerned that none of us know because they have barred UN agencies, barred NGOs. It has become a black hole in terms of governance and humanitarian ground truth. And the people of Eritrea, who must…most likely are suffering the very same food shortages that we’re seeing throughout the region are being left to starve because there is not access, there’s a clear cut denial of access by the government of Eritrea of food and other humanitarian support for its people. Thank you.
On Kordofan, let me just say—yes, we’re looking forward to the release of the report that we requested back in June. We think that it’s important for the United Nations—whether it’s through its dwindling presence on the ground or through the human rights agencies and authorities—to give us, the member states, as clear a picture as they can of the unfolding humanitarian circumstances in Southern Kordafan, and to provide insight and investigate the allegations of abuses.