Remarks by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, on the Humanitarian Situation in Sudan, at the Security Council Stakeout

Susan E. Rice
United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
March 20, 2009




FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Good afternoon.

Today the Security Council spoke with a very clear and firm and united voice calling on the Government of Sudan to reverse its callous decision to expel 13 international NGOs and to allow the resumption of all international humanitarian aid activities.

This is a decision that is the responsibility of one man. President Bashir decided to expel these NGOs and therefore put at risk at least 1.5 million of his own people who now are lacking water, food, adequate medical attention, access to sanitation. He owns this responsibility and he will be held accountable for each and every death that occurs as a consequence. It remains our hope and a hope expressed by many in the Security Council today that the Government of Sudan will reverse its decision and allow international aid to resume.

Thank you very much.

Reporter: I understand (off mike) but in there you asked for it seemed that you were pleading for urgent action by the Council. Yet, the United States nor any other country that I know of has literally put anything on the table that the Council could even start to consider.

Ambassador Rice: Let me explain what we were searching for today. Today has been almost two weeks since this crisis began and the Security Council has not met in open session once until today to consider it, to hear of it. Nothing had occurred this week. Nothing open last week. The United States view, and that of many other members of the Council, was that when you have a situation where over 1 million people’s lives are at risk, we would be remiss if we paid no attention to that. So OCHA came and briefed. It was an interim briefing. We think it was worthwhile and we will have a full assessment report next week and we will come back to this issue.

The United States has been actively talking with members of the Council, member states outside of the Council, about appropriate next steps and there is nothing about this briefing that suggests that there will not, in our view, be an effort for action by the Council.

Reporter: You said that the Council spoke with a very clear, firm voice. But when I listened to it, I heard countries like China and Vietnam talking about the negative impact of the arrest warrant and that this needs to be taken into consideration and other countries saying that these two shouldn’t be linked. So, I ‘m not sure I heard...

Ambassador Rice: I think that you heard an interesting statement today by many members of the Council who have previously argued for a deferral of the arrest warrant. China did not link these two explicitly; it expressed concern for the people of Darfur, a desire for humanitarian assistance to resume, and said that the arrest warrant had added to the difficulties and the complexity of the situation. That’s a very different statement from an explicit linkage.

Reporter: Ambassador Rice, just what I was asking, you know what the Libyans and others said, including the Russian as well that of course considering the deteriorating situation, but why not wait until the team comes back and provides you with a full picture?

Ambassador Rice: These are not mutually exclusive. We will have a briefing in the Council as soon as the OCHA team is prepared to provide its whole assessment. But the United States view and that of many other member states who called for this briefing today is that we should not be remiss in seeking full and updated information on the humanitarian situation. We had a briefing behind closed doors previously; this was the first open briefing and we will continue to ask for OCHA to keep the Council regularly updated as this crisis unfolds.

Last one.

Reporter: Speaking of people at risk, I wanted to ask you; there’s a request in the Council for a briefing on Sri Lanka where 150-some thousand civilians- are trapped and being fired at from both sides, what is the US position on that?

Ambassador Rice: The US supports that request.

Reporter: And what about helping to evacuate or someway help the civilians that are there?

Ambassador Rice: The United States feels strongly about and concerned about Sri Lanka and we support the provision of it to the Council- a full and updated information on the humanitarian situation.

Thank you.

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PRN: 2009/055