Ambassador Rice: Good morning, everyone. Before I say a few words on Syria, I just want to say a word of thanks and gratitude to my spokesperson and the spokesperson for the U.S. Mission, Mark Kornblau, whose last day it is today. He’s done a tremendous job, and I’m very, very grateful to him for his service to the Mission and to our country. And we’re very pleased to welcome Erin Pelton as his successor.
Today’s vote to extend UNSMIS for a final period of 30 days was not the resolution the United States had hoped to adopt in the first instance. Our strong preference was to adopt the resolution that was regrettably vetoed yesterday in order to give the men and women of UNSMIS a final, last, best opportunity to succeed in the performance of their mission, by backing them up with the full weight of this Council and its commitment to use the tools at our disposal to ensure the implementation of our decisions and to do as the Joint Special Envoy and the Secretary General asked us to do, which was to ensure that there are consequences on the parties for noncompliance.
In the absence of that, the Council fortunately was able to come together today. The decision we took was to extend the UNSMIS mission for a final period of 30 days to allow it to withdraw safely and orderly—in an orderly fashion. And we hope very much that the withdrawal will be conducted with a principle priority placed on the security of UN personnel. We have also said in this resolution that, should—in the unlikely event—the situation on the ground change substantially and the government cease the use of heavy weapons and the level of violence become reduced to the extent that indeed UNSMIS again can not only operate freely but perform and fulfill the mandate that we gave it, then we would be prepared—in that unlikely circumstance—to revisit the question of whether UNSMIS has continued utility.
I’m happy to take a couple quick questions.
Reporter: I wanted to ask—it seems like this paragraph 2 of the resolution 2043 was in the UK draft and got dropped, and it’s—among the things getting dropped are pullback of military concentrations out of population centers and withdraw to barracks. Does this compromise mean that the U.S. doesn’t expect those things to take place? Or what’s the significance of the change?
Ambassador Rice: Well, as you know, the United States was not the author of the resolution. I’d let you speak to the author, who I think will be coming behind me. We frankly prefer the text that included all of paragraph 2, but we were able to accept the draft that was voted today.
Reporter: Thank you. Ambassador, do you think that the UNSMIS observers can play a role if there were to be an Assad step-aside or step-down and a transition government come into play?
Ambassador Rice: Well, I think first of all, there are many different ways this circumstance can unfold. The U.S. view has long been that Assad’s days are numbered, and I think those numbers are getting smaller and smaller. I don’t want to speculate about the various scenarios that may unfold. Obviously, if the circumstances are such that UNSMIS can operate freely with relative safety—given that they are unarmed monitors—and can implement the key provisions of the Six Point Plan, which include supporting a political transition of the sort we all embraced in Geneva, then we would welcome that.
Reporter: Would you still consider working with non-Security Council actors in Syria?
Ambassador Rice: Absolutely. As I said yesterday, given what transpired in the vote yesterday, the U.S. approach will increasingly be to focus our efforts not so much in this Council, which has hit a substantive dead end, but also to strengthen and intensify our work with other countries outside the Security Council, particularly the Friends of the Syrian People, which constitutes over a hundred countries that all asked for a Chapter VII resolution yesterday that sadly this Council was not able to deliver. And we will continue our political support to the opposition, our non-lethal assistance to the opposition. We will strengthen and intensify our sanctions, working with others to do the same. We will increase the amount of humanitarian assistance we provide. And we will stay closely aligned with the Syrian people as they seek and fulfill their aspiration for a democratic Syria.
Thank you very much.
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