FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ambassador Rice: Our president of the Council will soon issue a press statement that basically summarizes the Council’s view on the situation in Sudan. It was a US-drafted statement and we agree with everything in it. The purpose really is to underscore that there’s been some important progress made in preparations for the referendum in the South on Sunday, beginning on Sunday. We’re encouraged that the parties seem to be making timely and clear-cut statements reaffirming their commitment to the process, to holding it on time, and to respecting the results. That said, obviously there are a number of very critical outstanding issues that need to be resolved about which we remain very much concerned and focused on, including Abyei and citizenship, including resource-sharing, debt, and all of that – that will need continued urgent attention in the wake of the conclusion of the referendum period after the fifteenth.
We also spent a lot of time in the Council – and you’ll see this reflected in the statement – discussing the very concerning deteriorating situation in Darfur – and expressed real concern about violence that has led to a high number of displacements in the month of December – 40,000 rapes, murders, burning of villages, aerial bombardments, stuff that sadly we’ve become accustomed to in the context of Darfur. And the Council, for its part, and the United States, clearly for our part, are both very much focused on the situation in Darfur and the urgency of addressing issues like access for UNAMID, ending any external support that may be continuing to the parties on both sides, and ensuring that negotiations proceed in a serious fashion. In that regard, we and others expressed the importance of the government continuing to stay at the table and negotiate seriously in Doha, and we welcome the progress that the LJM made in accepting the recommendations, and hope that that can possibly provide a basis for progress on a larger set of Darfur issues.
Reporter: I know that you’re very concerned about Darfur, but can you just confirm the reports from the New York Times and elsewhere that a peaceful approach to Darfur was taken up as a condition for a package of incentives? You know, when the package of incentives was put forward, there were conditions for it to be activated. And the main one was for Bashir to cooperate with a peaceful referendum, there was also supposed to be his cooperation for a peaceful settlement for Darfur. The Times has reported that that is no longer a condition.
Ambassador Rice: I haven’t seen that, but no. The United States has always said that full normalization – the President said it himself here on the twenty-fourth— the full normalization of our relationship with Sudan depends on its resolution of the situation in Darfur. There are interim steps, important steps, that we hope will be in a position to take as progress is being made on implementing the CPA. I don’t know what this report is you’re talking to – it is not right.
Reporter: Related to this, this agreement by Salva Kiir to eject or stop the rebel groups from Darfur from being in South Sudan. Is it a positive thing? Does it help resolve things in Darfur, the idea that they wouldn’t have to go back? It was announced by Salva Kiir.
Ambassador Rice: Our view has long been that it’s vitally important that both parties to the CPA refrain from, in any way, direct or indirectly supporting rebel or proxy activity against the other. And so we urged that, to the extent that that has been the case, that it cease.
Reporter: Is there a problem with Darfur rebels in South Sudan? What’s the extent of it?
Ambassador Rice: I’m not sure I can give you a full assessment of the extent of it. I mean we’ve heard the UN report that there have been instances in which, perhaps to escape military activity in the North, rebels have moved into the South. We’ve seen evidence of bombing in hot pursuit by the government. So it’s clearly something of an issue. I can’t give you scientific assessment of its magnitude.
Reporter: On Cote D’Ivoire, Mr. LeRoy is increasingly worried about ethnic violence, the situation in the Gulf Hotel is at a standstill, ambassadors yesterday said they were strongly supportive of giving ECOWAS dialogue and negotiations a chance. Is the US sort of running out of patience and feeling, one, that the proposal by Mr. LeRoy to increase the strength of UNOCI, which he says he’s going to make next week – do you support that? And also, is it time, perhaps that there are some sanctions for Gbagbo and his cabinet? How do you feel about increasing the pressure on him versus the ECOWAS?
Ambassador Rice: I think they’re not mutually exclusive. Secondly, we haven’t seen a specific proposal on UNOCI so we haven’t taken a position on it. Obviously we’ve indicated a concern that UNOCI have what it needs to be effective and will consider swiftly and seriously any specific request we are getting. With respect to sanctions, we, the United States, and the European Union and others have taken steps, including yesterday to sanction Gbagbo and those close to him in terms of the authority to travel and move resources and assets. We think that kind of pressure is warranted given the continued refusal to accept and act on the will of the Ivorian people. And certainly in case of the UN we have a sanctions regime, they exist on Cote D’Ivoire and to the extent that this remains stalled, I think we are obliged to look at whether it needs to be augmented and invigorated.
Reporter: Look imminently?
Ambassador Rice: I’m not putting a timeline on it, but I think that it’s time to begin to discuss that seriously.
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