Good afternoon everybody.
We’re in the midst of a very busy day in the Security Council. We’re continuing our discussions on Sudan. You heard Ambassador Lyall Grant, Ambassador Rugunda and I present in the Council today a readout of our trips to Uganda and Sudan last week, and now we’re in the process of having a robust and constructive discussion among Council members of our shared observations and conclusions and what some of the next steps might be. But clearly the critical message of the trip, and the purpose, was to underscore the international community’s unity in its commitment to see the comprehensive peace agreement in Sudan fully implemented, and implemented on time, particularly the provision for the conduct of referenda on January 9th, 2011, so that the people of the South and the people of Abyei have the opportunity to choose their future.
The timing of the trip, followed by the high-level session here at the United Nations on September 24, really underscores that the international community, and the Security Council, and the United States are focused on this issue with real intensity, and that intensity will endure through the referenda and beyond. The quality of the conversation that we are having in the Council now is indicative of that shared commitment. But at the end of the day, it’s up to the parties themselves to determine their future and whether the referenda will indeed come off as planned, and as they’ve committed to do on January 9th, whether it’ll be peaceful and credible, which is the objective that we all share. And the United States will continue to make every possible effort to support the parties, to accomplish the goal of peaceful, credible, on-time, referenda, and the resolution of the complex post-referenda issues as well, so that the people of Sudan, all the people of Sudan, can live in peace and hope for a better future
I should also mention that we are also having very significant discussions about Darfur. The situation as we found it there was grim, to say the least, and the efforts that we and others have been making to improve protection of civilians, to strengthen UNAMID and ensure that it is fully carrying out its mandate were validated as necessary and continuing to be urgent. And so we stressed throughout our discussions in Darfur the importance of the protection of civilians, accountability, end to impunity and the creation of conditions through peace negotiations that can lead to lasting resolution of the conflict and the mass suffering that endures in Darfur.
I am happy to take a couple of quick questions.
REPORTER: Ambassador thank you. You raised in your public remarks in the Security Council this idea of repositioning UNMIS troops in some sort of way, buffer zone, hot spots, whatever. How seriously is the U.S. going to be pushing this; have you actively considered, what do you consider about the practicality of it given the force now, what kind of response are you getting from Security Council members on that possibility?
AMBASSADOR RICE: This was an idea that we originally heard from the Government of the South. We haven’t yet heard from the North and Khartoum on how they view this concept. I think most Council Members are skeptical, to say the least, of the feasibility of a force that could line the entirety of the border. The troops don’t exist; it couldn’t be constituted quickly enough. But there is serious discussion of alternative models that might focus on those areas along the border that are most vulnerable or at high risk of violence and where civilians may be most at risk. So we will await the recommendations from the Secretariat, from UNMIS on this, but we’re having a preliminary discussion of impressions, and I think there is an openness to this idea that’s one that we would need to see fleshed out, know the views of all the parties, and discuss further.
REPORTER: Ambassador, on another subject, Angela Kane, in a briefing at the Dag Hammarskjöld library on the UN budget said that the United States owes $1.2 billion still. I know that President Obama paid a big chunk of our arrears when he came into office, but what’s going to happen to this $1.2 billion?
AMBASSADOR RICE: I haven’t heard her briefing and that’s not a number that I’m familiar with. I can tell you that we have, since President Obama has come to office, paid our dues in full and on time. We continue to do so. We have also paid substantial prior arrears. But there is a difference between what the United States has always maintained that it owes the United Nations and what the United Nations from a bookkeeping point of view claims that the United States owes. These are so-called contested arrears that have been a subject of difference since the 1990s and before. They must be counting contested arrears if they are going to get to a figure that approaches anything like that. We also have the issue of sequencing of our fiscal year and the timing of when we pay, but we have been paying in full and on time.
REPORTER: So you think you are up to date then?
AMBASSADOR RICE: I haven’t seen what she said, and I’m telling you that we have been paying in full and on time, that there is a history of contested arrears, and there is always a timing issue given our when our fiscal year ends and the UN fiscal year ends.
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