Ambassador Rice: Good afternoon, everyone. Pursuant to resolution 2042, last night, as you know, members of the Security Council received a letter from the Secretary-General in which he outlined a proposal for an expanded United Nations monitoring mission in Syria for an initial period of up to three months.
The mission would comprise up to 300 military observers to be deployed in approximately ten locations throughout Syria and would additionally comprise a wide range of civilian experts. The Secretary-General recommended authorization of such a mission, with the understanding that he will consider relevant developments on the ground, including the consolidation of the cessation of violence, to decide on deployments.
This morning, DPKO Assistant-Secretary-General Mulet and Deputy Joint Special Envoy Guehenno provided a frank assessment, stressing that, while it remains challenging to accurately assess developments in Syria, there has been increased violence in recent days, including reports of the use of heavy weapons in Homs and elsewhere and the use of small weapons and abuses by government forces in multiple other areas of the country.
The Deputy Joint Special Envoy also stressed that “the Syrian Government has yet to fully implement its initial obligations” with respect to the cessation of violence or other aspects of the Six-Point Plan. They also reported that the Syrian government had yet to withdraw its troops and heavy weapons from population centers or to return to barracks. Regrettably, it was also reported that little progress has been achieved over the last weeks to provide for the more than one million people in need of urgent humanitarian assistance in Syria.
Council members were unified in their continued concern about the escalation of violence in Syria by the Syrian Government, and the Council is discussing its next steps.
I would like to make a few remarks now in my national capacity.
The Council expressed the intention in resolution 2042 to establish a full supervision mission “subject to a sustained cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties.”
In that regard, it’s important to read what the Secretary-General wrote in his letter about the sustained cessation of violence. And he wrote—and I quote—“It appears that levels of violence dropped markedly on 12 April and the following days, with a concomitant decrease in reports of casualties. However, the Syrian Government has yet to fully implement its initial obligations regarding the actions and deployments of its troops and heavy weapons or to return them to barracks. Violent incidents and reports of casualties have escalated again in recent days, with reports of shelling of civilian areas and abuses by government forces. The Government reports violent actions by armed groups. The cessation of armed violence in all its forms is therefore clearly incomplete.”
The United States agrees that the cessation of armed violence is incomplete, to say the least. In the six days since this Council adopted resolution 2042, we have seen the regime unleash yet another wave of horrific violence against the Syrian people. It has restricted the movement of the few monitors on the ground.
The advance team must be able to go to vulnerable cities like Homs, today. The shelling of Homs and other cities must end, immediately. The government must pull back its troops and heavy weapons from the population centers, immediately. The government could easily do all of these things today.
The Council expressed its willingness to quickly authorize a monitoring mission, but we have also set forth the conditions necessary for such a force to be deployed—or such a mission to be deployed—effectively. The choice is now with the Syrian government to decide whether or not it will fully end its murderous cycle of violence and allow monitors in Syria under terms that will allow them to operate in safety and to report credibly. The advance mission already authorized by the Council, while still small, is an important test of whether the Syrian government will allow the effective operation of UN monitors.
I’m happy to take a few questions
Reporter: Madame President, the protocol this morning did not deal with—apparently, according to the Secretary-General, he just told us—with the question of the air support and also the nationalities. Do you see these as time-bombs that might derail the whole process in the future? Because he said, it’s unacceptable—according the Secretary-General—unacceptable that they put conditions on nationalities. And also, you just confirmed what the Secretary-General has said, the violence hasn’t stopped completely. Would you see this as a hindrance to sending monitors in the future, if it doesn’t stop completely?
Ambassador Rice: Well with respect to the conditions that have been laid-out, I really would defer to the Secretary-General, as we’ve just receive seconds ago a copy of the protocol and haven’t had the opportunity even to read it. I would say obviously that we would expect no more and no less out of any potential mission in Syria than we would expect of a mission elsewhere in the world authorized under Chapter VI where we are talking about the dispatch of unarmed monitors. Clearly restrictions on nationality, restrictions on movement, freedom of air support—all of these are key elements of any neutral monitoring mission anywhere in the world. They are also substantially among the expectations outlined in Resolution 2042, so we would certainly support the Secretary-General when he says that those are import aspects of any potential mission.
Reporter: Ambassador Rice, a question on Syria and then perhaps you can come back to me. I have one on Sudan but after we’ve dealt with Syria. Mr. Guéhenno made clear that they feel that it’s necessary to press ahead as soon as soon as possible with a fuller mission because, despite the risks—despite the persistent violence...is the council now ready to begin work on a resolution that would authorize the deployment while spelling out the conditions that need to be met as you said now?
Ambassador Rice: Well I think we’ll see. We certainly had an initial discussion in the Council this morning on the basis of the Secretary-General’s report, which as you know, we only received late last night. I think it will need to be studied and considered in respective capitals, and we will continue discussions here in New York. There were a number of members of the Council who expressed an eagerness to respond swiftly and affirmatively to the Secretary-General’s recommendations. Although, also many members of the Council expressed concerns that the conditions contemplated and laid-out—in fact, more than contemplated—laid out as requirements in Resolution 2042 have not yet fully been met. And certainly we all agree that they need to be met for any mission to be deployed and operate effectively.
Reporter: So are you now saying that it is a precondition for the Syrian government to actually pull the forces out of the areas that it’s not supposed to be in, including heavy weapons, back to the barracks and that they need to clear—and make clear what are these conditions for the air assets before you are agreed to a resolution in the Security Council regarding an expanded monitoring team?
Ambassador Rice: Well, I would refer you to Resolution 2042 ,which is the Council’s most recent statement on the subject. Obviously, we will all consider very carefully the Secretary-General’s report and recommendation, particularly in light of how circumstances evolve on the ground. In our view, in the U.S. view, the onus remains on the Syrian government to demonstrate that it is committed to not just the words of its agreements but are taking actions that are consistent with those agreements on the ground. And we’ve put important emphasis on the ability of the advanced team, which is already there, to be able to move freely to deploy to the most important hot spot, Homs, and to be able to test the proposition, which is at the heart of the Secretary-General’s proposal, and that is that the dispatch of monitors will in fact be an ameliorative addition to circumstances on the ground.
Reporter: You just need to say for clarity here—did you mean to say that when you put your conditions as an American ambassador that today they need to need to be able to go to Homs, that today they need to this. Are these now preconditions for the US agreement to a resolutions with 300—
Ambassador Rice: Raghida, we, like every other member state, will consider very carefully the Secretary-General’s recommendations. But what I’m saying is, that in the U.S. view, the onus remains on the Syrian authorities to demonstrate that it will allow these monitors to do their job, and that’s why the role of the advance team is so important. We could authorize—theoretically, the Council could authorize tomorrow the full complement of observers, but if they are not able to move freely, if they’re not able to visit the hot spots, if their freedom is hindered then they won’t be effective. And obviously we all have a shared interest in any monitoring mission being effective.
Reporter: Two questions: Is there any point at which the U.S. administration will declare that non-compliance and failure to stand by agreements means that the Six-Point Plan has failed and therefore Plan B or C or whatever needs to be contemplated? And secondly, on the thematic debate, the fact that there’s two members of the Security Council right now that are non-NPT signatories and also the events of last week in North Korea and last night in India and so on and so forth. Is there a little disconnect between that and the thematic debate?
Ambassador Rice: Well, let me begin with Syria and say that from our point of view—
Reporter: Yeah, the question about Syria is, is there any point at which the U.S. administration declares the Six-Point Plan a—
Ambassador Rice: Right. Well, first of all, we’re not prepared to prejudge the success or failure of the Six-Point Plan. We and other members of the international community have supported it because we believe it offers the best and perhaps the last best opportunity for this conflict to be resolved through diplomatic means, as opposed to military means. And we think that that’s very important. Obviously, it is still uncertain whether that plan will succeed. We now have a new proposal from the Secretary General—another step in the potential implementation of that plan—and we’ll consider it carefully. We all remain interested in maximizing the possibility of this conflict being resolved peacefully. And if we assess that the addition of monitors in the current context will help advance that or at least advance the prospects for it, then that will be an important factor in our decision making.
With respect to non-proliferation, we’re—I’m going to have to go back and make my statement—but we’re very pleased with the session today. We view it as a collective reaffirmation of the commitments made by member states at the summit meeting in 2009 that President Obama chaired and where we adopted resolution 1887. This particular session has a focus within that broad subject matter on nuclear security coming out of the Seoul conference last month, and we will adopt a presidential statement shortly in which all members of the Security Council affirm their commitment to the fundamental principles and interests of nuclear security. So I count that as a positive step, particularly given the complex composition of the Council at present.
And with respect to North Korea, I’ve addressed that repeatedly. I think the Council did a fine job in conveying swiftly and strongly a message of condemnation on North Korea and making clear that there will be consequences for their failed missile launch. And we’re working on that as we speak in the Sanctions Committee. And there would be further action taken should they in fact take other provocative steps, such as a launch or a nuclear test.
Reporter: Ambassador Rice, on Sudan—we’ve had increasingly bellicose rhetoric coming out of Khartoum. President Bashir has said that they’re going to go “liberate” South Sudan. We’ve had more rhetoric today. What is your response to this? And is the Council going to react in any way?
Ambassador Rice: The Council has been very plain, and its presidential statement last week still pertains. First of all, we strongly condemned the violence that has erupted, the resumption of hostilities on the border, in particular the occupation of Heglig. And we’ve called upon the government of South Sudan to remove its forces from Heglig. Also, in particular, the continued aerial bombardment and incursions by Khartoum into South Sudan and, beyond that, the many other instances of violence along the border. We think that—and when I say we, I mean not only the United States but indeed the entire Security Council—that the violence needs to stop without preconditions, and both sides need to return to the negotiating table. The escalation of rhetoric on both sides is indeed worrying. And it’s only fanning the flames when we think, to the contrary, the effort ought to be made to reduce the flames, douse them, and return to the table to resolve the outstanding issues that have made relations between North and South so difficult in the wake of independence.
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