FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ambassador Rice: As you well know, we just heard a very disturbing briefing from Under Secretary General Amos and High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres about the grave unfolding humanitarian crisis in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states in Sudan. Yesterday, I sent a letter to the Council on behalf of the US government that provided facts and documentation and maps produced by the Famine and Early Warning Network about the unfolding humanitarian crisis and providing information collected from aerial and other sources that underscores the urgency of the humanitarian situation there.
The bottom line is that this conflict has affected more than 500,000 people, and if there is not a substantial new inflow of aid by March of this year, the situation in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile will reach Stage 4 of an emergency, which is one step short of full scale famine. This is exceedingly grave and underscores the urgency of this situation. The proximate cause of the problem-in addition to the fighting and underlying political issues that have not been resolved related to the CPA-is that the government of Sudan has deliberately denied access to international NGOs, the United Nations, and international humanitarian workers to the most affected populations in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. The Council discussed this at some length, and really, this is a situation that is unconscionable and unacceptable. We have bilaterally-as well as through the United Nations and Undersecretary General Amos and High Commissioner Guterres and many others-urged the government of Sudan to grant immediate and unconditional humanitarian access into the region. But thus far, despite discussions, nothing has occurred. And we were briefed today that, in fact, despite the efforts of Undersecretary General Amos and High Commissioner Guterres so far, the suggestions, the commitments, the pledges that the government of Sudan had made to them, which were modest in the first place, had not yet been fulfilled. So, we reiterate the call on the government of Sudan to allow full, immediate, unconditional access to all populations in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile to avert what has the potential for very soon to be a full-scale humanitarian crisis. And obviously, were that not to happen, we would all be gravely concerned and have to review a variety of other options for dealing with the crisis that's unfolding.
I'm happy to take a couple questions.
Reporter: Can you tell us what options the Security Council could be considering? And was there any discussion of actually what the Council could do to avert a serious famine?
Well, everybody agreed that the responsibility for providing for the people in need and for protecting them lies, first and foremost, with the government of Sudan. So, everybody is agreed that the first line of effort must be to persuade the government of Sudan to grant this access immediately and unconditionally. The United Nations has put forward proposals for the government of Sudan for cross-line assistance efforts. Those proposals have not been accepted as of yet. We talked about the importance of concerting the efforts of the United Nations, the African Union, and the Arab League, as all of us have a shared interested in mitigation of the humanitarian situation in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. Beyond that, today, we did not discuss any particular next steps. But obviously, this is something that the Council is quite concerned about and will keep under review, and to the extent that we can reiterate as a collective those concerns in public, we will seek to do so.
Reporter: Ambassador Rice, two things. One, first of all when we sort of look at this situation in July as the split between the two countries as being implemented, I mean the independence as being implemented, there's a lot of violence going on. Can you bring us up to date on where that violence stands? Are there still clashes between northern Sudanese forces and rebel groups or others in Kordofan and Blue Nile? And also, if you'll allow me, I understand there's a new draft out of the Syria resolution, and that some of the Western states are kind of upset with the Russians because they feel like they're fiddling with the text and not making a serious effort. Can you...
Ambassador Rice: Let me being with Sudan and South Sudan. I think we have three categories of violence, and they're all serious. We have an uptick in violence inside of Sudan itself-in Darfur, on the one hand, and in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile on the other. And all of those situations remain of real urgency. In South Sudan, we've seen some very disturbing inter-communal violence that has taken at least scores of lives, in the Jonglei area. And the United Nations has focused on that, UNMIS has focused on that, and the Council has also. And then there is the cross-border violence, and we've seen aerial bombardments by the North into the South. We've had repeated reports of cross-border movements arming proxies in both directions. So that too remains of grave concern, particularly given the unresolved issues of Abyei, of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, and of course of oil revenue.
Turning to Syria, the Russians yesterday, after some delay, came back to the Council with another revised draft of their resolution, this one incorporating in brackets some, but not all, of the suggestions that had been made by other Council members for additions and/or deletions. That draft will be discussed this afternoon at the expert level. And we will have a better understanding at that time as to whether the Russians are prepared to engage in a negotiation in which there is give and take and compromise on the proposals that have come from other delegations or whether in fact we remain stuck.
Reporter: On Syria, is anyone holding the Russians to task about the sketchy shipment of suspected bullets to Syria that diverted course, took off its tracking devices, and said it was going to go to Turkey and actually went to Syria? I mean, is it not it outrageous that the Russians are doing this at a time when the resolution is being discussed?
Ambassador Rice: Well, obviously, we would have very grave concern about arms flows into Syria from any source, and we would certainly make that point very directly with any country that may be providing such arms. Unfortunately, there is not an arms embargo against Syria, which we certainly think is overdue, in part because, as you well know, some members of the Council, including Russia, have indicated opposition to any form of sanction, even those that mirror that the Arab League has already implemented.
Reporter: Can I ask about South Sudan?
Ambassador Rice: Who are we calling on here?
Reporter: Can I ask a South Sudan question?
Ambassador Rice: We'll do two, just...for the confusion. Whose? Yeah.
Reporter: Tomorrow there's going to be a briefing on the Palestinian territories by OCHA. Did you agree to this in the end, or will this increase pressure on Israel over conditions in the territories?
Ambassador Rice: My understanding is that there will be a broader briefing about the situation in the territories as well as in parts of southern Israel. We are of the view that this is not of optimal timing or focus but obviously we have no-we respect Valerie Amos and her work broadly around the world, and we will hear the briefing and will respond to it in substance.
Reporter: ..on Jonglei, in South Sudan, it's emerged that the UN's response was slowed down by the refusal of Russian helicopters, in UNMISS, to fly to the area. So I spoke to Malcorra yesterday, and she said there's some attempt to-that they didn't fly, they couldn't bring lethal assets to protect civilians and that there's some attempt now to get an intermission-inter, you know, between missions, with MONUSCO. I want to know, what did you think of the Russians pilots' refusal to fly? Do you think it had anything to do with the attacks on them? And what should be done to actually get the assets to Jonglei and protect civilians?
Ambassador Rice: Well, I refer you to the Russian Mission for a detailed explication of what has occurred between their contingent on the ground and Moscow and DPKO. But obviously the Council has said that we think it's important that UNMISS have the air mobility that it needs to do its mission. We have been supportive of all efforts that have been made by UNMISS and DPKO and DFS to find and secure the assets that are necessary for that mission to perform optimally. We certainly are appreciative of the Russian contribution to UNMIS, with one S, that came at an important time. And we certainly hope that from Russia and elsewhere that UNMISS will have the assets it needs to perform. Thank you.
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