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Diplomacy in Action

Explanation of Vote at a Security Council Adoption on the Situation in the Middle East (Syria)


Remarks
Susan E. Rice
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
October 4, 2011

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(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.



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