Ambassador Rice: Good afternoon, everyone. The Security Council received a briefing via video conference from Joint Special Envoy Annan this morning. Mr. Annan began his briefing to the Council explaining that he visited Turkish refugee camps on April 10, where UNHCR has registered more than 25,000 displaced refugee Syrians, 6,000 of whom arrived in the just last five days. He was extremely impressed with the Turkish government’s work in this regard and expressed concern for the April 9 cross-border incident in which two civilians were killed.
Mr. Annan noted that UNHCR has registered a total of 43,610 Syrians throughout the region as refugees with many more still unregistered. Mr. Annan also noted that he traveled to Iran on April 11th. He reported that Iranian officials expressed support for his mission.
Mr. Annan noted the letter he received yesterday from the Syrian Foreign Minister, which stated that the Syrian government would cease all military fighting as of 6:00 a.m. today while preserving the right to respond “proportionately” to any attacks carried out by armed so-called terrorist groups against civilians, government forces, or public and private property. Mr. Annan also stated that he received assurances that the Syrian National Council and the Free Syrian Army would also comply.
Mr. Annan reported to the Council that a “fragile calm appears to be prevailing.” However there are some—
and I’m quoting again—“unconfirmed reports of some violence in some cities.” He stated that this was not unusual in such situations in the first hours of the first days as parties were testing each other. He stated that the violence, abductions, and torture must stop. He emphasized that he wants to get eyes and ears on the ground quickly and that parallel efforts must be made to begin the political process.
Mr. Annan confirmed that this—what has happened today does not constitute full compliance by the Syrian Government, in particular of item two of his Six-Point Plan, as Syrian forces and weapons remain in and around population centers. He emphasized that Syrian troops and armor must return to their barracks immediately.
Additionally, Mr. Annan stated that the Syrian Government has not yet complied with the other aspects of his Six-Point Plan. Mr. Annan requested authorization from the Security Council for an advance element of a monitoring mission to go to Syria immediately to liaise with the parties and to begin reporting on the situation on the ground.
He also requested the Security Council to express its intention to authorize a full monitoring mission, provided that the violence has not resumed next week and, among other things, that there is complete freedom of movement, unimpeded access throughout the entire Syrian territory, unobstructed communications, unimpeded access to all Syrians by the advance mission and the monitoring group itself, and security guarantees from all parties without prejudice to freedom of movement.
Council members are consulting urgently at present—or will be consulting urgently—on the necessary authorities for the advance element to proceed.
I’m happy to take some questions.
Reporter: Madame President, the ambassador of Syria just said that it’s not true that Kofi Annan had informed you, the Council, that there has been no compliance in as far as pulling back the troops to the barracks. He said, “It is not true. He did not say that.” So my question is, is this a demand of the Security Council still? And do the Syrians have the right to demonstrate and go to these demonstrations or is this pre-conditioned on entering a dialogue, a political dialogue?
Ambassador Rice: Raghida, there’s a lot in there. I think you kind of asked multiple questions. But let me try to answer, and if you want to restate the question…First of all, as I said, Joint Special Envoy Annan was clear that what the Syrian government has done today—the steps that have been taken—do not constitute full compliance either with item two of the Six-Point Plan or with the Six-Point Plan in its entirety, and he stressed in particular that troops and heavy weapons remain in population centers. They need to be pulled back and forces returned with their equipment to barracks. So I hope that gives you one factual element from his briefing this morning, and I can’t imagine how the Syrian Ambassador who wasn’t in the room could accurately characterize what was said. Now, the Council’s view—and I think you’ve heard it from a number of Council members—is that the Six-Point Plan in its entirety must be implemented. And that Six-Point Plan, as you know, includes freedom of association and freedom of movement for journalists and for humanitarian actors. Those are critical elements of responding to the urgent situation on the ground as well as creating the enabling environment in which there can be the critical element, which is a Syrian-led political transition in which the aspirations of the Syrian people are met.
Reporter: About the April 9th incident on the Turkish border that you began with: Turkey has said that this might call into play Article 5 of NATO, that an attack on one is an attack on all. Has the Council received any letter from Turkey and what does the U.S. think of that? And if you can give me, maybe at end of this, where do we stand on Sudan, on the PRST and on calling for removal from Heglig and this bombing in Bentiu? I just like to know—
Ambassador Rice: I am not aware of—maybe my colleagues can correct me—of a Turkish letter, except to initially report the incident. I’m not aware of a letter that specifically mentions Article 5 of NATO unless it’s come in, and I haven’t yet had the opportunity to see it. I’m aware of press reports that Turkish officials have mentioned that, were there to be sustained violence and attacks on Turkish territory, that they feel it necessary to invoke Article 5. That was not raised nor has it been discussed in the Security Council. I would like to stay on Syria. If you’ll remind me to come back to Sudan at the end, I’m happy to do that.
Reporter: What steps will the U.S. now be taking to get observers on the ground in terms of a resolution? Can you talk about what you are working on now?
Ambassador Rice: Well, the Council, we expect, will begin deliberations on a draft resolution, we hope as early as this afternoon. It is our interest and our shared aim to try to negotiate that text as swiftly as possible, and we will stand ready to bring the Council together to adopt the resolution as soon as it’s ready.
Ambassador Rice: I hope, but I can’t be sure. It really depends on how complex the negotiation turns out to be.
Reporter: Is there an agreement among the Security Council members to include the withdrawal of the Syrian troops from the population areas? This is the thing that the Syrian authorities did not comply with.
Ambassador Rice: I’m not—what’s the question?
Reporter: The question—whether there is an agreement among the Security Council members to include in the draft resolution the withdrawal of the Syrian troops from the population areas?
Ambassador Rice: What I can say is that’s a critical element of the Six-Point Plan. It’s item 2c of the Six-Point Plan. That has not been completed much less even really begun, and all council members remain firmly united behind formal implementation of the Six-Point Plan. We haven’t begun negotiations on a resolution, so I can’t tell you with any precision what will end up in the resolution. But as a matter of principle, the Council is very much united behind the Six-Point Plan in its entirety. One more on Sudan—I mean on Syria—and then we’ll go to Sudan.
Reporter: Madame President, just here—just a few minutes ago the Syrian Ambassador accused several Arab countries to undermine the Six-Point Plan and then specifically included the United States. What—
Ambassador Rice: Among Arab countries?
Reporter: Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey. That is not an Arab country, but he specifically mentioned. I asked him to specify other countries, and he included the United States.
Ambassador Rice: In what?
Reporter: In undermine the Six-Point Plan, Annan’s plan. Saying that, like, practically in Istanbul you worked against the plan, and apparently, you still working against. Can you respond to that?
Ambassador Rice: The United States has been very clear and unequivocal in its full support for the Six-Point plan, as have all members of the Security Council. The Syrian government endorsed the Six-Point Plan last month and committed on April 1 to implement the provisions of 2 A, B and C in its entirety by Tuesday. The only people who have been undermining the plan, thus far, have been the Syrian government itself. Now, today we saw for the first time in a long time a brief, positive step, which we hope will be sustained. If this very fragile initial opening is respected and sustained—and that must include the pullback of Syrian forces from populated areas, the pullback of their heavy weapons and the return to barracks, as Kofi Annan said today—then perhaps we will have the beginning of the Six-Point Plan process that we fully support. But the onus has been and remains on the Syrian government, which for over a year has been brazenly killing its people, to adhere to its obligations. Its track record up until today has been dismal. We hope, but we clearly remain cautious in our assessment that today becomes the start of a new way forward. But I think, frankly, we have a year’s worth of evidence that leads us all to enormous skepticism.
Sudan. We’ll do Sudan. We’re done with Syria.
Reporter: Since the Council started meeting yesterday about this PRST, President Salva Kiir has said they’re not leaving Heglig, that they told Ban Ki-moon they’re not going to leave. Sudan has stared bombing Bentiu and other places. Where does it stand? Is the Council going to be calling for a withdrawal from Heglig? And what about this bombing by Khartoum in South Sudan?
Ambassador Rice: The Council is gravely concerned that the recent escalation of conflict between Sudan and South Sudan threatens to burgeon into full-scale conflict. And the Council is close to completing, I believe, a PRST, which I hope I will be able to share this afternoon—read out this afternoon in the chamber. And it will be very clear in pressing for an end to the violence of all forms.
Reporter: Including a pull out?
Ambassador Rice: Let me read the PRST when it’s completed and when all Council members have agreed to it.
Reporter: Thank you, Ambassador. On North Korea, you previously said that a strong—or a measure in a credible way is needed from the Security Council. But what would be the appropriate measure by the Security Council? Would it be PRST or a resolution? I mean in terms of both format and content.
Ambassador Rice: Well, I’ve said that we think the Council should respond credibly. I believe it will. I’m not going to pre-sage a negotiation that hasn’t begun, before a launch that hasn’t happened. We have said and others have said that the wise thing would be for North Korea to forgo this provocative and ill-considered action, which is in blatant violation of international law and their international obligations. Every time they go down a path such as this, their isolation intensifies, the needs of their people increase, and they become more and more out of the bounds of the international community. That will be the case if they do so again.
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