FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ambassador Rice: Before we get started, I want to note for the record a milestone development at the US Mission to the United Nations, which is the fact that Mark Kornblau has now become a father and welcomed into the world a beautiful young daughter named Lexie. So, congratulations Mark, we're all very proud of you. It's the happiest adventure you will have in your life, being a parent.
Coming to the substance of the day, as you know, we had the opportunity in consultations to hear a briefing from Under-Secretary-General Lynn Pascoe. He covered principally Syria and also commented on Iraq and Guinea-Bissau as requested by some members of the Council.
The briefing we received on Syria was alarming by any standard. The Under-Secretary-General noted that in the days since the Arab League monitoring mission has been on the ground, in fact, some estimated 400 additional people have been killed, an average of 40 a day, a rate much higher than was the case before their deployment. That is a clear indication that the government of Syria, rather than using the opportunity of its commitment to the Arab League to end the violence and fulfill all of its commitments under the protocol, is instead stepping up the violence despite the presence of monitors and carrying out further acts of brutality against its population even often in the presence of those monitors.
Clearly this is something we profoundly condemn; it's part of a pattern that has characterized the abuses of the Asad regime. It has long been the view of the United States that Asad should step aside and yield to the wishes of the Syrian people for a government that reflects the rule of the people and indeed is unified and committed to peaceful progress for the country.
Unfortunately, rather than take that approach, we heard the vitriol of President Asad's speech today and further belittling by him of the Arab League, which we found offensive given the entire international community, the United States and all members of the Security Council are united in support of the Arab League initiative, and it is something that the Syrian government themselves committed to embrace.
Moreover, we are deeply concerned by reports that at least two of the monitors of the Arab League today--two Kuwaitis--were roughed up, harmed, harassed, hurt, in the context of their work. The Arab League, as I understand it, has issued a statement strongly condemning that and pointing the finger, putting the blame, very squarely on pro-regime elements that were responsible for the attacks on the human rights monitors from Kuwait. And so, as the Arab League has, we call on the government of Syria to uphold its obligations to ensure the protection, the safety, the freedom of movement of the monitors, which has been anything but honored to date.
I'm happy to take a couple of quick questions.
Reporter: Thank you. President Asad said today that what is happening in his country is a foreign conspiracy. What is the United States --- going to be a tougher line in the Security Council? Are you going to take a tougher line in the Security Council in order to convince Russia, mainly, to accept, to submit a new draft resolution?
Ambassador Rice: To say that it's a foreign conspiracy is frankly an insult to the people of Syria who are dying on the streets at the hands of their own government as they try to express freely their rights to peaceful expression and freedom of assembly and to bring about, through peaceful means, a better future and a more responsive government.
The United States has been very clear and very forceful in its approach to the crisis in Syria from the very outset. We imposed tough sanctions on the Syrian regime, and we have incrementally increased them. We have joined with partners in Europe and the Arab world to broaden and deepen those sanctions. And we have pressed, as you know, for a strong and meaningful response from this Council on what is transpiring in Syria. We think it is long past time that the Council passes a strong resolution that supports the Arab League and all of the elements of the Arab League initiative, including its call for sanctions.
Unfortunately, after a bit of a show last month of tabling a resolution, the Russians inexplicably have been more or less AWOL in terms of leading negotiations on the text of that resolution. We and many other members of the Council have offered a number of amendments. We were happy to engage in a process, but we thought that that document, that ultimate resolution that might emerge from negotiations had to be credible, it had to be comprehensive. We couldn't cherry-pick among aspects of the Arab League initiative that some may like and leave aside those that some may not like. We needed to endorse the Arab League and support it in toto.
Reporter: Ambassador, are you suggesting that Russia is not acting in good faith? Negotiations are also...Germany and Britain sort of favored an Arab League briefing, I understand today, by the Qatari Ambassador in the Council... did they not think that this would be a good idea to have a briefing in the Council and what's the US position on that?
Ambassador Rice: First of all, I'm not talking about good faith and bad faith. I'm simply describing where we are in the process of
consultations and deliberations on the Russian draft resolution. There was a flurry of activity before the holidays, and there was some
expectations raised last week in consultations that there would be further negotiations and to date, despite our collective readiness to
address this, we haven't seen the Russians come back to the Council with a new text. I hope that they will soon. What was the second part of your question?
Reporter: The second part was that Germany had this idea of having an Arab League briefing and also the Qatari head of the committee...
Ambassador Rice: Well there was some suggestion by a couple members of the Council that perhaps after the 19th of January when the Arab League is again reconvened to take a more formal assessment of the monitoring mission that it might be worthwhile for the Council to have the opportunity to hear from the Arab League. And certainly we would welcome that, but I think it was really an informal suggestion rather than any formal proposal.
Reporter: You talked about the 400 casualty figure since the Arab League monitors have arrived in Syria. A large number of those casualties can be attributed to terrorist attacks, and during the same period, we've also seen the rise of the Free Syrian Army and more activity by them. Do you think it's fair to blame the escalating violence solely on the Asad government?
Ambassador Rice: Well, first of all, I was referring to figures that Under-Secretary-General Pascoe cited in his briefings. My understanding was he was not talking about loss of life that occurred in the terrorist attacks but the number that the UN, as you know, has been progressively citing, which is now over 5,000 people that have lost their lives in the context of the uprising. So I think the terrorist casualties are a separate figure. But you can certainly seek clarification.
But clearly we have condemned as a Security Council and on a national basis the terrorist attacks that have occurred of late in Syria, and we condemn such attacks wherever they may occur. And there is no doubt that those are happening, but that is a separate phenomenon and a frankly-fortunately--a lesser phenomenon than what we see--and have seen for almost ten months now--which is the government of Syria willingly and blatantly and in cold blood massacring its own people.
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