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Diplomacy in Action

Remarks on Sudan and Syria

Press Conference
Susan E. Rice
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, U.S. Mission to the United Nations
Remarks to the Media at a Security Council Stakeout
Washington, DC
January 30, 2012


Ambassador Rice: Good morning. As you know we just completed a briefing by Assistant Secretary-General Edmund Mulet on South Sudan and the UMISS mission. He made the recommendation that the force strength be maintained at the mandated level of 7,000 through at least 2013. That is a recommendation that the United States strongly supports based on the deteriorating security situation, the incidents of violence that we've seen in Jonglei and elsewhere, and the importance we attach to the UN's role in protection of civilians as well as support for the process of DDR and SSR. In the course of that discussion, we expressed also our grave concern, which you have heard us repeat, about the deteriorating situation in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, the humanitarian crisis there, which his becoming more and more urgent, as well as the ongoing dispute between Sudan and South Sudan over oil revenues-the flow of oil-the fact that the north has captured and held Sudanese oil. We believe that four of the ships have now just been released, which is an overdue and important step. And we hope that conditions can quickly be created so that the parties can sit at the table and finalize, as swiftly as possible, a permanent arrangement with respect to the oil and revenue sharing, without which both sides will suffer and the loss of oil revenue will be crippling to all.

On the issue of Syria, you know that this is going to consume much of our week. We certainly strongly support the draft text that Morocco has tabled. We think it's vitally important that the Security Council support and embrace the Arab League plan in toto. And we will certainly be maintaining that position as the Council discusses and debates next steps, including the text on the table. We're looking forward to tomorrow's session, when we will have the Prime Minister of Qatar as well as the Arab League Secretary-General briefing the Council. Secretary Clinton will be here on behalf of the United States, and I believe other ministers will be in attendance. And we look forward to an important discussion in the Council, followed by continued negotiations.

Reporter: Sorry, just a question on Syria. How hopeful are you that the Council might be able to have a vote on the resolution by the end of the week, which is what we've been hearing from some diplomats was the goal, given that the center point of the Arab plan is this political transition of power where Bashar al-Assad -is supposed to delegate power to a deputy, and the Russians have come out very strongly against that-you have Lavrov at the weekend saying any transition of power would be absolutely unforgivable?

Ambassador Rice: Well, we think this resolution is timely. We don't see a great deal of reason for an extended negotiation. We certainly will go through the process, led by the Moroccans, of discussing and debating the text at expert level and PR level, but we think that what is contained in this resolution is quite straightforward. There are no sanctions. There is use no force or threat of the use of force, as some have alleged. It is primarily a straightforward condemnation of what has transpired, a call upon the government of Syria to adhere to the commitments it made to the Arab League, and an endorsement of the Arab League plan, which we think is vitally important and the minimum that the Council should do.

Reporter: Ambassador Rice, are there negotiations on that going on at the moment, [delete comma] because Mr. Lavrov made pretty clear that he's not going to accept it in the form that it is now. So, can you give us a tenor of the talks, if any, that there is going on? And, you know, is expert level enough, or are we going to see foreign ministers negotiating this tomorrow up here?

Ambassador Rice: We began discussion on Friday, as you know, when the Moroccans introduced the text. We will discuss it again at expert level today, and I expect that we will discuss it further at Perm. Rep. level this week. I don't anticipate that ministers will be negotiating this text tomorrow.

Reporter: Given the Syrian government's refusal to accept the Arab League plan, how important do you think it is for the Security Council to pass this resolution? What difference do you think it can make? And how important is Russia to that effort, how important is it to have them on board?

Ambassador Rice: Well, we obviously think the optimal outcome would be a unified statement, a unanimous statement, out of the Security Council, embracing the Arab League plan. Let's step back and look at what has transpired. First of all, we have had ten months of horrific and escalating violence perpetrated by the government against its people. This has led to Syria's neighbors, as well as the United States, the European Union, many members of the international community, and now, most urgently and importantly, the Arab League stepping in to try to prevent a worst-case scenario in Syria. That is our objective: the protection of the people, the ability for them to exercise their rights peacefully and without the threat of violence, and of course, the aspirations of the Syrian people to be recognized.

The Arab League has now taken a very important step-in addition to its initial effort to deploy [delete this hyphe] -monitors and to table the plan that it did last year-to call on the parties to come together under a plan in which there would be an effort by Assad to yield responsibility to his vice president, a unity government, a constitutional process that would lead swiftly to democratic elections. We think that's vitally important. We have seen the consequences of neglect and inaction by this Council over the course of the last 10 months, not because the majority of the Council isn't eager to act-it has been-but there have been a couple of very powerful members who have not been willing to see that action take place. That may yet still be the case. We'll see. I don't want to pre-judge where this will end up. But we certainly think that it's vitally important for the Council to stand up and support a process that the neighboring states all have come to us and said, "Please support," because the alternative is more violence and intensified chaos.

Reporter: Yes, months ago there was the risk, Pillay mentioned, the risk of the country descending into civil war. Do you think we're at that stage yet? Has the country-is it in fact in civil war?

Ambassador Rice: I think we're at a critical point where the violence is escalating, and indeed, with each passing day it seems more and more civilians are being killed-more and more people are people killed-and that's of grave concern. I don't know if there's a point on the calendar when one can determine that it is morphed into something different. I'm certainly not going to make that judgment or prediction. But what is clear is that the situation is deteriorating, it's increasingly grave, more and more innocent people are dying. We've seen of the horrific reports of women and children and their bodies on display as a consequence of government-sponsored violence. That needs to end.

Thank you very much.

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