Stakeout by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, after a Security Council Briefing on the Middle East

Susan E. Rice
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
June 23, 2011


Ambassador Rice: Good afternoon. I wanted to share with you that the United States has just tabled this morning a draft resolution to establish the interim security force for Abyei as requested by the Government of Sudan and the Government of South Sudan, consistent with the interim security agreement that was reached between the parties on Monday in Addis Ababa. The Council will begin consultations on this draft resolution which reflects the mandate proposed to the Council as agreed by the two parties and that calls for the deployment of 4,200 Ethiopian National Defense Force personnel under the United Nations flag, and we are looking forward to discussions with Council members in order to swiftly adopt a resolution authorizing this new interim security force for Abyei so that the agreement that both parties have reached which is obviously urgent and fragile can be implemented immediately and effectively.

In addition, as we have been saying in the Security Council and many other venues during the course of the last couple of weeks, we are gravely concerned about the humanitarian situation in Southern Kordofan, the fighting that has transpired there in particular. We are deeply concerned about attacks on and threats to and intimidation of UN personnel, obstructions to freedom of movement and access for humanitarian goods; allegations and indeed verified reports of aerial bombardment and other attacks against civilian personnel. This too remains a subject of discussion within the Council and attention, but we wanted to in particular to move forward in establishing the interim security force for Abyei so that that very important agreement can be implemented. I’m happy to take a couple questions.

Reporter: Thank you. There is an impasse in the Council regarding the Syria situation. Would you accept a Presidential statement rather than a draft resolution if you can get consent of Russia and other opposing countries to the draft resolution? Thank you.

Ambassador Rice: The United States has been exceedingly clear and consistent in our condemnation of the violence against peaceful protesters in Syria. We think it’s past time that there be a real and credible political reform process underway in Syria and that those who are seeking to express their aspirations and ambitions peacefully be respected and not face violence. And in that context, we have been very clear that we think it is past time for the United Nations Security Council to speak clearly and on the basis of principle as our government has, as many other governments have, and as the Human Rights Council in Geneva has. And so we very strongly support a draft Security Council resolution on Syria. We think it’s time, past time indeed, for the Council to act on it, and we think that the Council should speak with one voice and be clear in condemning what are obviously very irresponsible and unacceptable actions taken by the Government of Syria.

Reporter: On that subject, or a similar subject, Ambassador, do you think it is appropriate to have the Security Council make an expression of concern about the political situation in Syria in the resolution to renew UNDOF mandate?

Ambassador Rice: We think the Security Council should speak clearly and unequivocally about what is transpiring internally in Syria and that’s why we have supported a resolution to that effect. We also think that there needs to be a credible renewal of the mandate of UNDOF and that that mandate renewal needs to account of recent developments on the Golan Heights and on the area between Israel and Syria.

Reporter: Making the linkage between the political unrest and that situation, that incident along the border?

Ambassador Rice: No, we think that the resolution on the Golan Heights ought to focus principally on what is happening in the Golan Heights, and I think that it will. But at the same time, as I’ve said now three times this morning, or this afternoon, I think it’s vitally important that the Council speak clearly and unequivocally about the atrocities and abuses that are occurring inside of Syria.

Reporter: On Sudan, you said that you hoped that this resolution will be adopted swiftly. Is it possible that it could happen this week? And on the situation in Southern Kordafan, do you think a similar deployment might be advisable for the Security Council to authorize an interim force to go into Southern Kordafan?

Ambassador Rice: Well, with respect to the resolution we tabled today, we haven’t even begun consultations on it so it’d be premature to speculate about when exactly it might be adopted. This will be, I think it’s important to note, the first establishment of a new peacekeeping operation in quite some time. And indeed that will undoubtedly require careful consideration in various capitals, including our own. So while we’ll move swiftly, I don’t think it realistic to assume it will happen overnight.

With respect to Southern Kordafan, as you know, the parties are very much engaged in discussions about trying to affect a cessation of hostilities and withdrawal of forces from Southern Kordafan. That agreement hasn’t been reached and I wouldn’t want to presume or prejudge that it will occur or that indeed it will call for any particular kind of additional United Nations presence. As you know, there is, in UNMIS, now a significant contingent of UN personnel in Southern Kordafan.

Reporter: On the Darfur peace agreement, I know there was a meeting yesterday, is there some- it seems that most of the rebel groups have not..have spoken actually against the document. I wanted to know you know whether you think this will actually bring peace to Darfur. And on the Libya presidential statement that’s been pending for some time, this was told that the U.S. had proposed that, you know language to the effect that member states recognized the Transitional National Council as the legitimate interlocutor of the Libyan people. The U.S. hasn’t recognized the TNC. How is it consistent that U.S. would be proposing that as an amendment and essentially killing this PRST?

Ambassador Rice: We have stated, the United States has stated, that we view the TNC as the legitimate interlocutor of the Libyan people. That has been our stated policy now. I think the statement was made on or about June 9th. Now, so there’s no discrepancy there. And that is the basis of U.S policy. With respect to Darfur, we heard a briefing, as you know, from the Qatarian negotiator as well as Joint Special Representative Bosole yesterday. We are of the view that that agreement represents a step, an important step, forward. Obviously, in and of itself it is not sufficient to end the conflict in Darfur, but we think it was a, an important step and we have supported it.

Reporter: Ambassador, the 4,200 troops - that will be four times higher than the current UN force in Abyei, why is that necessary? And Khartoum has agreed to this accord because it places Abyei in the North. Is that the understanding of the international community?

Ambassador Rice: To your latter question, the answer is no. There is no such assumption or understanding. That is not the view of any recognized international entity. But nor is it the substance of the agreement, the interim security agreement, for Abyei. The purpose of that is to allow for the withdrawal of forces. At this stage that means the forces of the Government of Sudan, which are now occupying Abyei , and that that area would become demilitarized and administered in a joint fashion and that would persist pending resolution of the critical underlying issues, which as you know, are not yet resolved. You had a first part to your question though.

Reporter: A force of 4,200 is higher than the current forces.

Ambassador Rice: The draft resolution that we tabled reflects the composition and the mandate that the two parties themselves have requested, that they believe is necessary to effectively implement their agreement in Abyei. It also reflects the contribution that the Ethiopian defense forces have said they are prepared to make. And I think it also reflects input and assessment from UN personnel, who were engaged, if not directly, than on the margins of, these negotiations. Ultimately, it’s obviously up for the Security Council to decide the strength and the mandate of any UN mission. But the United States, in tabling this draft, has sought to remain faithful to the agreement reached by the parties, which we understand was hard won and inherently fragile. And we think that the Council ought to give very, very serious consideration to the request of the parties, both in terms of the mandate and composition of the force. Thank you very much.


PRN: 2011/127