FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ambassador Rice: Good afternoon. Thank you all for coming. I’m pleased to come here and brief in the capacity of president of the Security Council for the month of December. I hope you all are receiving as we speak copies of the program of work which are being handed out. And I will be happy to take any questions you may have on the substance of the program of work, but I will go through and highlight a few events that we think are particularly notable during the month. I don’t propose to talk about every session, but obviously we can do that in the questions and answers if that is your preference.
Let me begin by saying that on December 15 we will have a high level event on Iraq, we’re very pleased that Vice President Joe Biden will come to the United Nations to chair this meeting on Iraq in the Security Council. It’s an important opportunity for the international community to recognize the very real progress that Iraq has made, both in terms of government formation, as well as the significant steps that have been taken to terminate its Chapter VII obligations.
On December 20th—forgive me for skipping around a little bit, but I think you’ll be able to follow—on December 20th the Council will hold an open debate on Resolutions 1820 and 1888 on “Women and Peace and Security.” We will be continuing to work with other members of the Council on an outcome document for that debate. And it will provide members with an opportunity to discuss various tools to combat sexual violence, including teams of experts, sanctions enforcement, and briefings on emerging situations, and we’re looking forward to the participation of our SRSG Margaret Wollstrom and Undersecretary General La Roy at that event.
On December 21st we’re doing something a little bit different, which we’re quite excited about. You’ll see on the program in brackets “Youth Event.” And you may have already seen as we have Tweeted and put on Facebook, that we announced that the Security Council will have what I think is an unprecedented informal informal meeting, an innovative opportunity to hear from young people. Frankly, I’ve long thought since I came here that we have missed the opportunity to hear the voices of what are half the world’s population, under the age of 25, in the crucial work that we do, that is, in which they have a greater stake than anybody else. And so we tried to find a means to at least bring their voices in some form or fashion into the Council. And give the Council Members an opportunity, not only to listen but to respond.
We recognize that this innovation is by definition imperfect, in that it can’t be possible to hear from everybody simultaneously, but what we’re trying to do is to collect as many voices from as many parts of the world as we can. So from now until December 14th we’re going to be welcoming submissions from young people around the world, and asking them to answer the following question: “What is the most vital challenge to international peace and security facing your generation? Tell the United Nations Security Council about something you believe deserves more attention and explain why it’s important.”
We’re going to be welcoming responses in various different forms. It could be a 1 minute or less video submission, sent via YouTube or Facebook or any other means. It could be a written response in 250 words or less. And we will take the body of responses that come in from around the world and try to select a very small handful that are representative of the major themes we’ve heard, and allow those to be played in the Security Council or heard in the Security Council, and invite members of the council to respond directly—and hopefully more informally than is our custom—to the concerns expressed by these young people.
We also make an attempt to create a video montage of those that have come in that is a broader cross section than can be played effectively in the Council and that would be available to you and to all member states to hear. So that is the event as we conceive it on the 21st and were very much looking forward to it. It will be in the chamber, it will be open to the public and the press and we will be in particular encouraging young people, from near and far, to be there, physically present in the chamber to participate. Let me move on now—oh and I should mention—I apologize, we have invited the Secretary General to participate in that event as well. And he of course will be present at the event on Iraq on the 15th .
Next I want to mention Sudan, which is obviously at a critical juncture. We have a number of Sudan-related events on the Council’s agenda this month, including consultations on December 16, the latest in the Council’s very regular monthly or more meetings in the critical run-up to the referenda. We’re looking forward to SRSG Menkerios’ update on the situation. We will also hold the regularly scheduled 90-day briefing from the Sudan Sanctions Committee Chair. And on December 9, the ICC will brief the Council, as it does every six months on Sudan. We are also ready and willing to take up Sudan at any point during the month as may be requested or deemed appropriate in light of the evolving situation there.
Another important meeting of the Council will take place on December 10th, when Japanese PermRep Nishida, Chair of the Sanctions Committee on Iran, the 1737 Committee, will brief the Council on the Committee's activities over the previous 90 days. This will be, as is custom, an open meeting, and is an important opportunity for the Council to hear about the critical work of the Iran Sanctions Committee, including its help in establishing the new Iran Panel of Experts, and its handling of recent violations of UN sanctions.
On the 22nd of December, we will hold the quarterly debate on Afghanistan with SRSG de Mistura, who will brief the Council on UNAMA, as well as from Afghanistan PermRep Tanin. And Council members as well a number of members from states in the region and others that are active in Afghanistan will have the opportunity to speak at that event.
As a matter of the calendar I should point out as well that the Council will renew the mandates of a number of peacekeeping operations during the month of December including Cote d’Ivoire, Cyprus and Golan Heights, and will receive status updates from the Sanctions Committee on Liberia.
And, finally, I wanted to mention that on December 13th, the Security Council will visit Washington, D.C. They will have the opportunity for meetings at the State Department and the White House and elsewhere. And my husband and I are looking forward to welcoming not only the Council Members to Washington, but as you may or may not know the spouses traditionally host one another for lunch during the month of their presidency and so this month the spouses lunch will be at Blair House and the spouses will also join their PermRep partners in Washington. So let me stop there and take your questions.
Reporter: On behalf of UNCA, welcome. You are more than welcome to come to our UNCA Awards December 15th. That is a very busy day.
Ambassador Rice: Let me make the most important announcement. It is a busy day but I’m looking forward to coming and I’m planning to do so. You all better play some good music, and I hope people will actually get out and dance. I’m counting on, because otherwise I’m not coming back next year.
Reporter: After one week, can you assure us honestly that Wikileaks doesn’t affect your work or your Presidency this month?
Ambassador Rice: Yes. Let me reiterate what I said the other day. First of all our diplomats here are just that, they’re diplomats. They do the good work, and the traditional work only—that diplomats do—in advancing our interests and working collectively with partners to solve global problems. And here at the United Nations we work with every member state on the wide range of issues on our agenda. I’ve been gratified, and as I anticipated to hear from many colleagues, that while this is obviously an unpleasant and awkward experience, they understand that we are here to work with them as we do every day as partners and colleagues. That’s the spirit in which we work, that’s the way in which we work and they have experienced first-hand certainly over the last two years that I’ve been here and many years prior. They have been collegial and supportive and it is in no way in my experience diminished our ability to do the work that we do every day and in fact I have every expectation that as I said the other day, that we will continue to do the good work that we do with skill and with good success. And I couldn’t be more proud of the diplomats that I am privileged to serve with here at the U.S. Mission and those that serve the United States all over the world.
Reporter: Thank you. Ambassador, how do you see it playing out over your presidency the proposals to increase the outright strength of UNMIS by 2000 troops and also AMISOM. And, in your national capacity, as you answer that question, could you give the U.S. view of those two proposals?
Ambassador Rice: Let me start with AMISOM and then come back to UNMIS. I think the AMISOM proposal is a bit more ripe. The AMISOM mandate expires in January. And we fully anticipate that it will be renewed. One of the questions before the Council, as I think you know, is whether the mandate ought to allow for the increase in AMISOM force strength from 8,000 to 12,000. And that’s an issue on which Council Members are continuing to receive instructions, discuss, debate, and we’re certainly looking forward to that mandate renewal. Many Council Members have expressed the hope that it might be possible to renew that mandate a bit earlier in December. I can’t be certain that that’s going to be possible, but were going to all make best efforts to see if it is. I can’t at this stage share with you the U.S. position as its still being discussed and formulated, but my hope is that working with colleagues here we’ll continue to be in a position to address the very real and critical security issues that are faced in Somalia by the people of Somalia and thankfully AMISOM with the work that it is doing. On UNMIS, there has not been a formal proposal from the Secretariat to the Council to increase force strength by 2,000. We are well aware of that being actively considered. I think the latest information I have is that it is a topic that is being discussed between United Nations officials and representatives of the government of Sudan and the government of South Sudan. We therefore, as the United States, have not yet taken a formal position on any augmentation of UNMIS, but clearly it is our strong interest to see, as is the case in Somalia, the UN, or in the case of Somalia the AU, best equipped to deal with what is a potentially volatile security situation in the case of Sudan and a clearly volatile one in the case of Somalia. And so we would look upon any such recommendations with urgency and seriousness, and would want to see the Council take actions that would reinforce the security in both places.
Reporter: Ambassador Rice, on Wikileaks the UN put out a statement yesterday that the SG and Secretary Clinton met to discuss complications created by the revelations. Can you tell us a little bit more about what the UN or the United States sees as those complications?
Ambassador Rice: I haven’t actually seen that statement.
Reporter: Or anything that came out? I mean did the UN request the U.S change the way that it engages with the UN? And on Sudan, there was a report yesterday saying that the government had requested that the bids on ballot papers and other materials be reopened for Sudanese companies and that may force a delay in the January 9th date, can you shed any light on, I know that there’s been a reluctance to discuss the delay because it would encourage one, what the thinking on that is?
Ambassador Rice: My understanding is that there is no consideration being given by the United Nations or any other responsible authority on the ground in Sudan at present for a delay. Our understanding and expectation is that the registration process is continuing, it’s gone largely very well in the south, and we are looking forward to and expecting the referendum to be conducted on January 9th, and we do not see any reason for the ballot papers issue to be an impediment that would prevent that from occurring. Going back to the meeting you mentioned between Secretary Clinton and Secretary General Ban. I haven’t seen such a statement, I do know that they had a very good and constructive meeting on a range of topics, and that the Secretary General expressed to me satisfaction with his discussion with Secretary Clinton on all issues including on this question of Wikileaks, and the Secretary General I believe knows quite well that the United States and our representatives here do the work of diplomats, and nothing else, and we are grateful for the opportunity that they had to have that exchange.
Reporter: On Sudan, there have been a couple of recent incidents, one is the shooting by the Government in (inaudible) people that were wanting to speak with Bassole and give a different view than the government wanted to be heard. There was a bombing in the South Sudan (inaudible) by the Sudanese Air Force. So I’m just wondering—under the UK Presidency it didn’t seem like these were raised in the Council. What do you think of those two incidents and do you anticipate these type of incidents giving rise to meetings in the Council? And I wanted to ask about something that’s not listed, but we’ve heard maybe on the agenda, is a briefing on Mynamar by Mr. Nambiar. Is it going to be given on the 6th and was it the seemingly missing footnote at the bottom of the program of work?
Ambassador Rice: Let me answer the second question first. Yes we can now—in fact you see on your program now—certainly the one I’m looking at has consultations on Myanmar the afternoon of the 6th of December. So that is the current plan. We look forward to hearing from Mr. Nambiar on his trip, and we expect that that will enable the Council to give due consideration to those important issues for the month of December.
With respect to Sudan, certainly we have every interest as a Council in staying very closely abreast of all kinds of developments in Sudan—positive and negative—that would have an impact on the referenda, or on the security situation more broadly in the North or the South and/or in Darfur. And I think in Sudan as in many other relative hot spots around the world, the Secretariat receives reports or there are press reports of incidents that are of concern to member states. And we receive those inputs and updates in various forms, including in the sitreps we receive from the United Nations. Any member state can at any point request more detailed briefings as we had Monday for example on Haiti, as we decided to do today on Cote d’Ivoire, and I’m quite confident given the high level of interest and commitment to the situation in Sudan given the Council’s recent visit, that we will have ample opportunity to discuss anything that any member feels is necessary or timely, and we also expect the Secretariat to be particularly energetic in keeping the Council abreast of these sorts of developments.
Reporter: Do you think that UNAMID—just one follow up if you don’t mind—because there is a lot of controversy about whether UNAMID actually goes out and verifies. The JEM said they were bombed for a week. UNAMID said they couldn’t confirm it. Can a member state ask through DPKO for UNAMID to go out and confirm something? How does that work?
Ambassador Rice: Well a member state could certainly request such an effort, but it ought to be understood, and I believe it is understood, that the standing interest of the Security Council, without the need to make an incident specific request, is that UNAMID and UNMIS consistent with their mandates, like those elsewhere that have an active protection of civilians mandate, are being aggressive in trying to prevent incidents of violence, and respond to incidents of violence, and investigate incidents of violence. And to the extent that has not occurred, it is our assumption that it is not because of UNAMID or another mission is not making an attempt, but that it is because there is some impediment in their ability to do so. I have certainly underscored at many points our expectation to UN officials, including to SRSG Gambari, that UNAMID, one of UN’s largest and most robust missions ought to be very active in fulfilling that aspect of its mandate.
Reporter: Ambassador Rice, on December10th--1737 on the Iran’s Sanctions, do you anticipate with the IAEA Report, Yukiya Amano, Director General, his report regarding the lack of cooperation from the Iranian authorities and the recent incident of the death of their nuclear scientist, that there is going to be an increased lack of participation and cooperation from Iranian authorities? That is the first part. And the second question, on Non-Proliferation, I see an item listed down here, and I don’t see North Korea on here, is there no plans for the Security Council to discuss North Korea?
Ambassador Rice: I think as many of you know that the custom is for nonproliferation to be a standing footnote on the Council’s agenda, which provides the opportunity, at any stage for the Council to discuss North Korea or Iran or other issues that are of pressing proliferation concern. And so, I think we are ready and certainly able to take up either issue at any point, as deemed necessary by any member of the Council during the month of December. With respect to your first question, I really wouldn’t want to predict or speculate on how Iran might respond to the developments you mentioned or any number of other ones. We have, coming up next week as you know, a P5 +1 meeting in Geneva, we hope that will prove to be an opportunity for the P5+1 and Iran to have an important and productive exchange on a range of issues, most pressingly and importantly, Iran’s nuclear program. And, we look to Iran to come to those discussions in a spirit of seriousness that befits the importance of that opportunity.
Ambassador Rice: could you speak a little louder?
Reporter: (inaudible) the latest, there is a report on the panel, there is a political crisis surrounding the indictment, the members of Hezbollah (inaudible), the recommendation of the report is to compromise, that places the indictment in the public domain that preserves Hariri’s credibility and Hezbollah. The perpetrators were to have agreed (inaudible). Would you agree that compromise could be reached at the end of the month?
Ambassador Rice: Well, I’m not in a position to speculate on hypotheticals. We don’t know what exactly is going to transpire, and I’m certainly not going to comment on an NGO report, but let me say this in my national capacity, the United States has been very clear in our view that the work of the Tribunal needs to continue, it needs to continue unobstructed and unabated and we are very strong in our support for that work, as was requested originally as you know by the government of Lebanon and mandated by the Security Council. And we attach importance to ending impunity in Lebanon and ensuring that the work of the Tribunal is allowed to continue and that’s why we have recently announced an additional contribution to the Tribunal’s work and encouraged other member states to support it both politically and financially.
Reporter: It’s obvious, Madame Ambassador, that the Security Council shouldn’t make any ultimate decision regarding the Tribunal, but in your national capacity do you support intensive discussions between Syria and Saudi Arabia and some other countries regarding the rising tensions in Lebanon around the speculations and indictments, and have you met Prosecutor Bellemare, or are you going to meet him anytime soon?
Ambassador Rice: I’ve not had the opportunity to meet with him recently, and I don’t know what his current travel plans are, but I would welcome the opportunity. With respect to your earlier question, the U.S. view is as I just said that the Tribunal’s work is very important, it needs to proceed unabated and unobstructed, and that is our interest in support of the people of Lebanon, Lebanon’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We are obviously in consultation with partners inside of Lebanon and in the region to that end.
Reporter: On the meeting between the SG and Secretary Clinton, did the Secretary General issue a demarche or ask for an apology from Secretary Clinton?
Ambassador Rice: I think that’s a question best directed to the Secretary General.
Reporter: On Wikileaks. Given what you just said, besides some unpleasantness and awkwardness the U.S. seems to have absorbed the shock, at least here, what does that say about the need for secrecy in government and whether governments can be more open?
Ambassador Rice: Well, the United States is among the most aggressive champions of openness and transparency in government. President Obama spoke to that very issue during his speech to the General Assembly this year, and we have taken, as an administration, many unprecedented steps to increase the amount of openness and transparency in government, and we’re quite proud of that. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a place for private communications and for classified communications. That’s an essential element of national security, foreign policy making and diplomacy around the world, and you have heard, my colleagues condemn the alleged leaking of cables by Wikileaks and others and it is a reprehensible act that is completely unexcusable and counterproductive.
Reporter: Ambassador Rice, it’s been, quite a bit of time has passed since the revelations about the North Korean uranium enrichment program and the shelling incident on the South Korean island, it’s no secret that the Security Council has had difficulties agreeing on language that they could issue on these two issues. What does it say about the Council’s ability to function on key international crises if it’s really unable to say anything strong to these very important issues?
Ambassador Rice: Well, let me remind you, Lou, that the Council last year passed Resolution 1874 which was a very strong and unified unanimous response to our shared concerns about North Korea’s nuclear program. And that Resolution remains in effect, it’s being actively implemented, and we just discussed in the last little while steps that the Council can take to strengthen its implementation. With respect to North Korea’s nuclear program, that issue remains one that is very much on the forefront of the Council’s agenda, it’s also a topic that we and others are discussing in the region and in capitals. I think it would be appropriate for the 1718 Committee to play an important initial role in discussing and assessing some of the recent news with respect to North Korea’s nuclear program. It is a case, as you know, that the Council did discuss a potential press statement on that subject this week, at 15, and while there was a wide body of agreement it wasn’t ultimately possible to reach agreement on a unanimous statement as is required procedurally. That’s unfortunate, but it doesn’t suggest to me that the Council is unable to function or to fulfill its mandate, quite the contrary, and I’m confident that we will continue to not only discuss these issues but more importantly to take actions consistent with 1874 and 1718 that strengthen implementation of the resolutions that we’ve passed, and continue to seek to constrain North Korea’s nuclear program, and to work toward a denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
Reporter: Ambassador Rice, thank you very much for this press briefing. I think it is one of the first press briefings by an American Ambassador in a very long time in this room.
Ambassador Rice: In this new room.
Reporter: I’d like to know, at the end of your tenure of this presidency, you have a meeting on Afghanistan. Afghanistan being the most critical (inaudible) of countries at this time. There are calls by Afghanistan’s President for talks with Taliban (inaudible) also, Pakistan talks with Taliban. Also will you be able to update us (inaudible) Iraq.
Ambassador Rice: I’m sorry, start the Iraq portion again. I couldn’t here you after you finished on Afghanistan.
Reporter: When you discuss Iraq, Vice President Joseph Biden is coming. When you discuss Afghanistan will you be asking Ambassador Holbrooke to come to give some sort of opinion, because it is the most critical of questions at this point.
Ambassador Rice: Well, with respect to Iraq, you may note that there are a number of Iraq related issues and events that naturally fall on the Council’s calendar in the month of December: DFI, UNAMI, Oil for Food—all these issues are there, and in light of the recent progress that has been made politically in Iraq, we thought, as Council president, that this offered an opportunity to consolidate discussion of these issues into a high-level event, which is in effect the equivalent of our thematic debate for the month, and invited Vice President Biden and senior counterparts from capitals to participate. And we’re looking very much forward to that. We think it’s timely and an appropriate opportunity to focus Council attention and higher-level Council attention to the progress in Iraq.
With respect to Afghanistan, obviously a very, very important issue for the United States and for many, many members of the United Nations as a whole and for the Council. We discuss Afghanistan on a quarterly basis. And that’s what we’ll be doing here. It’s an opportunity, as I mentioned, to hear from SRSG de Mistura and we will do so, and, as we always do, view it as a very important opportunity for the Council to stay abreast on UNAMA and events on the ground in Afghanistan.
Reporter: President Obama indicated his support for India as a permanent member on the Security Council. I was wondering whether the whole issue of Security Council reform might be discussed this month? And are there any other countries that the President would support for a permanent seat—for example, Japan.
Ambassador Rice: I think as many know, the intergovernmental negotiations on Security Council reform are ongoing. They occur in the General Assembly. We participate actively in them. And it’s not an issue that is formally on the Security Council’s agenda. This month or in any recent month.
President Obama, during his trip to Asia, stated that the United States believes that in the context of Security Council reform, when it is achieved, that, as we’ve always said—first of all, we support a modest expansion of non-permanent and permanent members. And as we contemplate potential new permanent members, the President stressed the United States’ support for India and Japan as new permanent members. And he said as much in both capitals.
Moderator: Thank you all very much.
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