Ambassador Rice: Good afternoon, everyone. I just wanted to comment briefly on the decision taken today by Syria to withdrawal its candidacy for the Human Rights Council. We believe that this is the result of the good sense of the member states of the Asia Group, who determined that they were unwilling to lend sufficient support to a country whose human rights record is deplorable and who is in the process of killing its own people on the streets, arresting thousands, and terrorizing a population that is seeking to express itself through largely peaceful means.
We think that this is a welcome step, an important step, and is one in a series of recent steps that have indicated that the trend line for the performance of both the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council—and the General Assembly in relation to the Human Rights Council—is beginning to move in a more positive direction. We note this decision, we note the decision to suspend Libya’s membership in the wake of what has transpired there. We also note the decision of the Human Rights Council to establish a special rapporteur for Iran, to establish a commission of inquiry for Syria, as well as to take appropriate steps in the case of Cote D’Ivoire. And we think all of these are indications that the Human Rights Council has the potential to begin to live up to its purposes.
Happy to take a couple questions.
Reporter: Will the Security Council be able to catch up with this trend in regard to Syria, Yemen and Bahrain?
Ambassador Rice: Well—speaking for the United States, we have been very clear and consistent and forceful in our condemnations of all attacks by governments on innocent civilians who are seeking simply to express their legitimate aspirations for greater freedom, greater economic opportunity, and a better future. And we have done so consistently. This Council has acted robustly in certain instances and been unable to reach consensus in other instances. I think that is in part a function of the fact that each of these are different cases, that each member of the Council perceives them differently and has different interests. And I have, when asked about whether one data point or two create a trend line, I have said in my judgment, I don’t think so. And I don’t want to predict what, if anything, may come subsequently from this Council. We will continue, as the United States, our very clear and forceful condemnation of what’s transpired in Syria and Yemen and elsewhere.
In the case of Syria, we have ourselves imposed significant additional sanctions, as has the European Union. And we’ll continue to have consultations with our colleagues and partners here in New York about appropriate potential next steps.
Reporter: Ambassador, do you think that countries should be more democratic than Kuwait to be members? And what about, what’s your comment on Syria running in 2013?
Ambassador Rice: Well on the second point, let’s see where we are in ‘13, and what they in fact intend to do. We are a week out from the elections this year and much has changed in the last twelve hours. So I think predictions are premature. And I don’t want to get into commentary on each of the 191 other members’ human rights records, but suffice it to say that we think that Kuwait standing on the Asia slate and representing the Arab group is a very positive step.
Reporter: Concerning the issue of Syria at the Security Council, would it be better to have a resolution presented so that we could see who is voting, not voting, to make it clear who is blocking on the issue?
Ambassador Rice: What we think is most important is that there be no ambiguity about the international outrage and condemnation at the behavior of the Syrian government. And we think today’s action in the Asia group underscored that, and we think that whatever the Council does ought to underscore that. Thank you.
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