On-The-Record Briefing on Sudan

Susan E. Rice
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson 
Office of the Spokesperson 
Johnnie Carson
Assistant Secretary 
Bureau of African Affairs 
Don Steinberg, USAID Deputy Administrator
Washington, DC
July 7, 2011




MS. NULAND: Good morning, everybody. As you know, this Saturday, July 9th, the Republic of South Sudan will celebrate a ceremony to mark its independence, culminating a six-year peace process. The U.S. presidential delegation to the ceremony will be led by our Ambassador to the United Nations, the Honorable Susan Rice. And the delegation will travel to Juba to attend this historic event today. We are very pleased this morning to have Ambassador Rice as well as several members of the delegation to talk to you about this trip. We also have Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Johnnie Carson and Deputy Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development Don Steinberg.

Welcome, Ambassador Rice.

AMBASSADOR RICE: Thank you. Good morning, everybody. I’m very honored to lead the delegation that will travel on behalf of the United States to Juba to welcome the new Republic of South Sudan into the community of sovereign nations.

As you know, the delegation will also include Ambassador Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs; Brooke Anderson, the Deputy National Security Advisor and Chief of Staff and Counselor at the National Security Staff; General Carter Ham, the commander of U.S. Africa Command; Deputy Administrator of USAID Don Steinberg; Congressman Donald Payne of New Jersey, who is the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health, and formerly chairman of that subcommittee; Ambassador Princeton Lyman, who of course is our Special Envoy of the President to Sudan; Barrie Walkley, who is the U.S. Consul General in Juba; and Mr. Ken Hackett, who is president of Catholic Relief Services, an NGO that’s been very active for many years throughout Sudan.

I’m particularly honored, in addition, that we’ll be joined on the delegation by General Colin Powell, who as you all know, along with one of my predecessors, John Danforth, worked so hard to lay the groundwork for the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. And obviously, General Powell did that while he served as Secretary of State.

So as you can see, this is a very strong and bipartisan American delegation. It reflects the President’s deep commitment to developments in Sudan and to supporting the new Republic of South Sudan. And we will be active, all of us, all members of this delegation, in our time in Juba, pushing forward on the issues that are so important and remain to be resolved.

Let me just say a few more words about what we’ll be doing, why it’s important, and what message we’ll be bringing on behalf of President Obama. Our trip will, of course, focus on the celebration of the independence of the Republic of South Sudan. Our day will include, in addition to the ceremonies, a meeting with President Salva Kiir and a ribbon-cutting to officially transform the U.S. Consulate in Juba into the U.S. Embassy to the new Republic of South Sudan.

As you know, this independence celebration is a deeply significant event for the people of South Sudan, who, after a half century of war and more than 2 million people lost, finally will have the ability to determine their own future. By any standard, this is a historic moment, and the fact that it’s occurring as a result of a democratic exercise through a referendum that occurred peacefully and on time is itself all the more remarkable.

The United States has worked tirelessly to help make the promise of this moment a reality. First, it would not have been possible without the steadfast leadership and personal engagement of President Obama, who raised his voice consistently and eloquently as he did before what was a historic gathering at the United Nations last September, where he spoke in support, quote, “of a future where, after the darkness of war, there can be a new day of peace and progress.”

Our efforts have also been championed by Secretary of State Clinton and bolstered by the hard work of General Scott Gration, Ambassador Princeton Lyman, Ambassador Carson, and many others who have logged dozens of trips to the region and countless sleepless hours on the phone and around the negotiating table. Thanks to these efforts and the hard work of many others in the international community and at the United Nations, the moment is approaching when a future of peace is finally possible.

But let’s be absolutely clear: This is a fragile and fraught moment as well. It cannot and must not be taken for granted, least of all by the Government of Sudan and the Government of the Republic of South Sudan, who will have to still work exceptionally hard to achieve an enduring peace and enable the emergence of two viable states that are peaceful neighbors.

A number of core issues remain to be resolved. A permanent resolution of Abyei’s status is still elusive. And the situation there, in spite of an agreement on temporary security arrangements signed on June 20th and the imminent deployment of a UN interim security force for Abyei, is still extremely volatile. An estimated 100,000 people have been displaced from their homes in Abyei.

And meanwhile, of course, we’ve seen brutal fighting in the northern border state of Southern Kordofan between Sudanese armed forces and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army North troops who come from that state. And the Sudanese army continues to carry out aerial bombardments that are hitting civilians. And on June 28th, the government and the SPLM North agreed to a framework of political and security principles for Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states, but they haven’t agreed yet to any cessation of hostilities.

The United States clearly has condemned the escalating violence, especially by the Government of Sudan against civilians, and the detention and targeting of UN national staff and the deliberate obstruction of access for humanitarian agencies. In light of this situation, the United States is extremely concerned by the government’s decision to compel the departure of the UN mission in Sudan from Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states and elsewhere in the North on July 9th. It’s vital that the United Nations be allowed to maintain a full peacekeeping presence in these areas for an additional period of time in order to facilitate the distribution of humanitarian aid, support the implementation of any cessation of hostilities agreement, and vitally, to protect civilians.

Furthermore, we’re concerned that the parties haven’t finalized arrangements on major outstanding CPA issues, including the border, citizenship, and oil. We believe the parties need to urgently resolve these remaining issues. In the meantime, it’s critical that the parties cooperate on such key issues as oil and citizenship in order to avoid major economic shocks or social upheaval. Allowing these issues, including the final status of Abyei, to linger without resolution for any length of time could swiftly destabilize the future relationship between these two states. So for our part, the United States will continue to be extremely active in supporting the implementation of the CPA in all of its stages, as we have since its inception, and particularly over the last 12 months. And we will continue to deliver the same consistent message on behalf of President Obama.

Saturday’s celebration is above all a testament to the people of South Sudan and secondly to the parties to the CPA. But as we’ve made very clear, the success of the CPA and the resolution of the larger issues in Sudan, including in particular Darfur, will remain a strong and consistent focus of the United States. As we mark progress for the Republic of South Sudan and an important new chapter in the history of what has been a very troubled region, the United States will remain resolute and clear-eyed about the road ahead.

Thank you, and I would now hand it over to Ambassador Carson.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Ambassador Rice, thank you very, very much, and I am very pleased and honored to be joining you on this presidential delegation to South Sudan. July 9 marks the technical conclusion of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, an accord that ended over two decades of conflict and suffering in Southern Sudan. The people of South Sudan can now look forward with great hope and expectations to the future, despite the enormous challenges that still must be addressed to secure the peace and to preclude another outbreak of conflict.

The United States remains deeply committed to helping South Sudan achieve its political and development goals, as well as working constructively with the government of Khartoum to improve and normalize our relations. To realize their dreams of peace and stability, we believe the leaders of both South and North will need to collaborate intensely and sincerely to achieve these goals. This means a reinvigoration of their efforts to ensure that their separation is characterized by dignity and mutual respect and in a manner that strengthens the continued viability, security, and economic prosperity of each of the two states.

The governments of North and South Sudan still need to reach agreement on critical issues from the CPA that have not yet been resolved. These are, among others, oil and transitional financial arrangements, citizenship and citizens’ rights, the resolution of the five areas along the North-South border, and the future status of Abyei. We also expect Sudanese leaders to implement fully their June 20 agreement on Abyei, which includes a full withdrawal of Sudanese armed forces from that territory.

We also expect the North to fulfill its obligations to hold and conclude in a timely manner meaningful popular consultations in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan. It will be critical for the parties to work together to resolve the ongoing security and humanitarian crisis that now exists in Southern Kordofan. The current situation is deeply troubling. We call on the parties to reach agreement on and immediately implement a cessation of hostilities and allow for aid workers to provide humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians affected by this conflict.

After years of fighting, the people of South Sudan have earned their right to peace. Their children deserve a more promising future that leaves the conflict of generations of the past behind. We hope that their leaders will seize this unique opportunity to establish a durable and self-sustaining peace that will provide a solid foundation for two viable states sharing a prosperous and stable future in which their people can realize their long-delayed hopes and aspirations.

The United States, acting in concert with the United Nations, the African Union, and the European Union and other international partners, will continue to play its part in assisting the new state of South Sudan to strengthen its sovereignty, build its capacity for enlightened governance, and contribute to its economic development. This will be a challenge for all of us. The United States stands ready to work with the people of South Sudan to meet that challenge. Thank you.

I’d now ask Ambassador Steinberg.

AMBASSADOR STEINBERG: We have a real challenge ahead of us in supporting the process of a new state in Africa, and the United States has had a long history of supporting South Sudan both before the completion of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and subsequently. At the explicit instructions of President Obama, we have worked to provide the people and the Government of South Sudan with the tools that they need to build a nation. And we often shy away from the phrase “nation building,” but in this case it is particularly appropriate.

Ambassador Carson spoke of the expectations of the Sudanese people, and indeed they have high expectations for what peace will mean for them. And already over the course of the last few years, we have worked with the Government of South Sudan to move themselves from a concept into a viable, functioning government. We’ve helped provide a million people with access to water. We’ve helped expand from school enrollment rates of about one in five to now 68 percent. We have financed the construction of roads, bridges, electrical power stations. And perhaps equally significant, we supported the January 2011 referendum on self-determination, which was overwhelmingly in support of independence.

In this effort, we’re working in partnership with a variety of agencies, the World Bank, our Troika partners, the United Kingdom and Norway on developmental and humanitarian assistance. And in that regard, we are prepared to host in September an international conference that will draw together the international community with the Government of South Sudan as a platform to demonstrate their vision and their future for their country and to engage with the international community. That will be held here in Washington towards the end of September.

In line with that effort, we have identified four key pillars for USAID and the whole of government to engage in, and these pillars are the following: to create an enabling environment for the promotion of private investment in South Sudan; to strengthen the agricultural sector to become a true engine of growth for South Sudan; to develop a common platform in institutional structure for the international community to engage in this new country; and to build the human capital necessary to govern and deliver services.

And it’s important to remember that this is a facilitative role, largely, that we’re performing. South Sudan has ample resources from its petroleum reserves and other assets to provide the basic needs for its development. However, in order to make sure that occurs they need the governmental capacity to ensure that resources are well used, that corruption doesn’t take place, and that bottlenecks and other impediments to development don’t occur.

I need to highlight as well that we’re responding to large humanitarian needs throughout South Sudan, and in particular now in Southern Kordofan, in Abyei, where we’re seeing probably a total of about 200,000 people displaced by recent fighting. Many of those are traveling to the South, and we are working with the Government of South Sudan to provide resources to them. I myself was in South Sudan about six weeks ago and met with a variety of Northerners who had come south and who were looking for a new life in the South but had very high expectations for what that life would provide to them. We’re concerned about their safety. We’re concerned about the citizenship questions in the North, which need to be resolved, otherwise we may see a massive flood of new IDPs coming South. And as Ambassador Rice said, we continue to press for humanitarian access to assist those in need in places where access is restricted, especially South Kordofan, the Nuba Mountains, and Darfur.

So we’re very excited about the future. As of July 9th we will have a full USAID mission in Juba along with a mission in Khartoum. And we are delighted to be pursuing the vision of President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton to help this country emerge as a prosperous and free country.

Thank you.

MS. NULAND: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Ambassador Rice – and maybe, Ambassador Carson you can weigh in – I have a wider question that maybe we can go a bit narrow as well – about your support for this referendum and for the independence of Southern Sudan has been very public and very emphatic. And I’m wondering whether you think – where this leaves the relationship with the North? And whether the people – whether you feel there’s – the North now feels any kind of stigma because of your strong support for Southern Sudan? Even in some of the comments, I mean, that – I think the Northerners feel that – and just from some people we’ve talked to, the Northerners feel now that you’ve chosen kind of Southern Sudan over the North. And the relationship with the government now, how do you – now that they feel that they’ve fulfilled their commitments on Southern Sudan, how do you, as you say, get them to continue to fulfill their commitments on Darfur, on some of these other things while managing their expectations on things like the terrorism list and such?

AMBASSADOR RICE: Well first of all, what we have favored is faithful implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which the two parties signed of their own volition, presumably because they determined it to be in their own – each of them in their own interest. So there’s no choosing of sides in that regard. And clearly, with the referendum having been held and the people of South Sudan stating their preferences clearly and overwhelmingly, we and others in the international community – indeed the entirety of the international community, every member state on the Security Council, every member state in the United Nations is committed to supporting and welcoming the Republic of South Sudan into the community of nations.

That said, obviously we have a vital interest in the success of peaceful and mutually beneficial relations between the government of the South and the government of the North. We want very much, as I think you’ve heard many of my colleagues say and Ambassador Carson just reiterated, to be in a position to build a more normal and more constructive relationship with the government in Khartoum. But for that to occur, as we have discussed on numerous occasions directly with them, we need to see full and final implementation of all aspects of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and clearly there are some important elements that remain unresolved.

We have also, from the very beginning, been very plain about the United States’ deep concern about what is transpiring in Darfur and now more recently in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states. Our interest, however, is seeing those issues resolved, the conflict end, political processes put in place that would meet the aspirations of the people of those regions within the country of Sudan, and that’s what we’ll work to continue to do.

We have many facets now to our relationship with the government in Khartoum. There is great potential for that relationship to deepen, but that depends on progress, as I’ve described, and progress in the roadmap that we have discussed over the course of the last many months with the government.

QUESTION: But they’re expecting – just a quick follow-up – they’re expecting now that they’ve signed this agreement, the South Sudan is an independent country, “It’s time for you to take us off the terrorism list.”

AMBASSADOR RICE: Well, in fact, the government in Khartoum knows exactly what to expect because they have heard it very precisely and directly from Ambassador Lyman and from many other senior American officials. There should be no confusion or ambiguity about expectations. We have been as plain as it’s possible to be in black and white, and we are fulfilling our side of the bargain. And as the government fulfills its commitments, as we hope it will under the CPA, we will be in a position to make the progress that we hope to make.

Johnnie, do you want to add anything to that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Just – thank you. Just one brief comment, and that is to say that the long-term political and economic success of the South is dependent upon having a strong, politically stable, and economically viable partner in the North. And the long-term viability of Khartoum’s government is dependent upon having a politically stable and economically prosperous partner in the South. Both of these countries will, in fact, remain very, very dependent upon one another for a long period of time. It is in their mutual interest, it is in our mutual interest to see two stable, viable, and strong economic states next to one another, and we hope that that message also gets out.

QUESTION: A question for whoever can answer it: The Southern Sudanese have said that the biggest and best present that the United States could give them on their birthday would be lifting the sanctions, and that if they don’t do that, that their oil-based economy just simply won’t be viable. So my question is: Are you – is the United States prepared to either split off South Sudan from existing sanctions on the whole of Sudan or lift sanctions on all of them as part of your efforts to get them kind of up and running?

And a second question is: What prospects are there for extending UNMIS given that, as far as I understand, its mandate sort of ends on July 9th under the CPA? How can you get them to keep them on?

AMBASSADOR RICE: I will take the second one. Do you want to –

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: I’ll go check.

AMBASSADOR RICE: The sanctions that have been in place on Sudan – there are different sorts and different types going back to 1993. They would not bear on and be a legacy that will be the responsibility of the Republic of South Sudan. So there are technical aspects to that, but the intent of the sanctions would not be consistent with that.

QUESTION: So that’s not – just so I’m clear on that – that they will no longer be subject to those sanctions as they emerge as a new country?

AMBASSADOR RICE: I mean, there are technical steps that would need to be taken to accomplish that, but the sanctions were imposed for the behavior of a government that is not the Government of the Republic of South Sudan. So we will make accommodation for that reality.

With respect to the United Nations presence, there are multiple aspects to this. In the first instance, we – the United Nations Security Council expects to adopt a resolution as early as Friday, which will establish a new UN mission for the Republic of South Sudan. It is a mission that will have various aspects to it, from security support to protection of civilians to support for building the institutions of the state. And a substantial share of the current UN presence or force in Sudan will shift over and become part of this new mission for the South. And there will ultimately be some troops that leave, some that come in, a different-sized civilian component, et cetera.

In the North, the portion that is above the 1156 border, which includes Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile but not limited to it, there are also currently several thousand UN forces under the current mission UNMIS. The government, very regrettably – and as I mentioned in my comments, to our grave concern – has indicated that it will insist that the UN terminate its mission in the North, effective on the 9th. The United States has been using all of our diplomatic and other instruments, as have the other permanent member of the Security Council and I think indeed many members of the Security Council, to try to persuade the leadership in Khartoum that it is not in their interest that the UN be compelled to leave abruptly or prematurely while key CPA issues remain unresolved and while, in particular, there is an issue with the common border, and a particularly volatile and grave humanitarian situation in Southern Kordofan and potentially Blue Nile state.

So this is something we’re very concerned about, we’ve been focused on for quite some while. It’s not just the United States; it’s all of the leading members of the United Nations and others beyond that. And we will continue to do what we can to underscore to Khartoum that it is in their interests and the interests of the region that they not take this step. But they seem thus far to be quite determined, and this poses a great deal of worry for the security of people in Southern Kordofan for the common border, for humanitarian access, and a number of other important issues.

MODERATOR: I’m cautious of the schedule of our principals, so we have time for two more (inaudible).

QUESTION: Two quick ones. You say that it’s very obvious for the government of Khartoum what they need to do to be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. But I was wondering if you could specify what exactly you expect next of them. I mean, I think they could argue that you keep changing the goalposts, and I was wondering whether you could be a little bit more specific.

And then on the conference that you mentioned for the end of September, could you tell us a little bit more about what kind of conference it is? Is it a pledging conference? Is it a brainstorming conference about how to take this further?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: As Ambassador Rice has indicated, the United States has laid out a very clear and specific roadmap for the government of Khartoum that would lead to a clear improvement in relations and include the removal of Khartoum from the state sponsor of terrorism list. That roadmap was originally conveyed to the government of Khartoum by Senator Kerry, and it has been reiterated over the last five or six months in numerous diplomatic dialogues, initially by Ambassador Scott Gration and now by Ambassador Princeton Lyman.

Clearly, the first step that must be done is the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. What we will see on Saturday with the independence of South Sudan is only one element of the full implementation of that agreement. As many of you may recall, that the CPA called for a resolution of both the problems in the South as well as in Abyei. There were supposed to be, on January 9, two referenda. One took place in the South; the other one was supposed to but did not take place in Abyei. As we have all mentioned, the issue of Abyei has not been resolved. In fact, since May 19th, the situation on the ground became worse and is only now returning to the status quo ante. It is imperative that the government of the North remove all SAF troops from Abyei, live up to its commitments in an agreement made with the South on June 20th with respect to Abyei.

But beyond that, the post-referendum issues that require immediate attention and completion are issues related to oil and transitional financial arrangements. There must be a resolution of the five remaining border disagreements along the South. There must be clarity on the issue of citizenship as well.

In addition, we have indicated to the government of Khartoum that we are prepared to review and look at the removal of state sponsor of terrorism designation from that country. But we have said that any removal of Khartoum from that list must be accompanied by full implementation of Abyei and must, in fact, meet all the criteria for the removal of the state sponsor designation under existing laws.

We are working as hard as we can with the authorities in Khartoum to make progress on these issues, but we are not yet at the end of the line with respect to full implementation of the agreement. We have not moved the goal posts. The government is clearly aware based on our verbal and written transmissions to them of exactly what is required.

AMBASSADOR STEINBERG: On the conference, the Government of South Sudan asked us to hold this conference as an opportunity for them to, two and a half months into their tenure, to show the international community a variety of commitments they’re prepared to make to be good development partners and good partners for the private sector. And so they have asked for the opportunity to present their development plans, to talk about what they’re going to be doing to keep corruption under control, to talk about how they’re going to be creating a conducive environment for the private sector, and a variety of other issues.

We’ve been working with the World Bank, with the African Union, with Norway, the United Kingdom, with Turkey and a variety of others to hold that as a two-day program. The first day is going to focus on what I’ve just described. The second day will focus on the private sector, and we’re working with the Corporate Council on Africa to put together a wide variety of opportunities for foreign investors. Again, this is a unique situation. There will be resources that are available from the Government of South Sudan, so this isn’t a question of having to need tremendous inflows of outside capital, but they do need help in this regard.

The other thing I would say is that it will also be an opportunity for us in the U.S. Government to announce some deliverables, some steps that we’re prepared to take in order to encourage South Sudan. As you may know, last year we provided some $300 million worth of assistance to South Sudan in the areas of education, housing, health care, and a variety of other areas. We’ll be announcing new plans at that point.

The other aspect I wanted to highlight vis-à-vis this conference but also more broadly vis-à-vis our development efforts in South Sudan is our emphasis on gender; our insistence that the government incorporate women into not only the delegations that they’re sending to these missions but also fully integrate gender considerations into all of their development efforts. And this is something that we stress very strongly with the government.

QUESTION: Just to go back about the designation on the terrorism list, is it under review at the moment or has the review not started yet, if there could be clarification on that? And if I could ask the same question about Darfur, how important is it to see some movement on Darfur? There is some fear that the focus on South Sudan and South Kordofan and Abyei is having less focus on Darfur. So what are your expectations from the government of Khartoum on that?

AMBASSADOR RICE: We initiated the process of examining Sudan’s status under the state sponsor of terrorism designation following the referendum. But as Ambassador Carson said repeatedly, there can be no lifting of that designation unless and until Khartoum fulfills its obligations under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, as we outlined very clearly and specifically in the U.S. roadmap that Ambassador Carson described. So that’s where we are.

With respect to Darfur, the United States has been for many years and remains deeply focused on the horrible humanitarian situation that persists in Darfur. We have been very active in every respect, most directly and consistently through the efforts of Ambassador Dane Smith to try to address and resolve not only the humanitarian but the political and security issues that remain of grave concern in Darfur. In the United Nations, we are very much focused on Darfur, on efforts to negotiate various aspects of resolution of the disagreement through Doha and other means. We have a large UN peacekeeping force on the ground in Darfur with a robust mandate to protect civilians, and we are urging that it do all it can within its capabilities to fulfill that mandate.

So by no means has Darfur been sidelined or fallen off the radar screen; quite the contrary. Unfortunately, now there are several other hot areas that require attention in parallel, but not to the exclusion of Darfur. And certainly, as we have elaborated with great specificity and in great detail, the roadmap for improved relations between the United States and the government in Khartoum, there are different stages and different elements to it, and the situation in Darfur is an important component. It is not the component that has immediate bearing on what we have been discussing, the state sponsorship designation. That’s tied to the criteria in the law, as Ambassador Carson said, as well as to performance on the CPA obligations. But there are other aspects of normalization and improvement, major aspects of normalization and improvement, that do depend on progress in Darfur.

QUESTION: Can you perhaps clarify that? Because I was under the impression – maybe it was from the last administration and maybe it’s a little bit different now.

AMBASSADOR RICE: It’s been a lot.

QUESTION: But I was just under the impression that Darfur was an issue in the terrorism list, kind of, criteria that obviously CPA was very important but that there was going to be no lifting of Sudan from the terrorism list until the situation improved in Darfur. Now, maybe it’s improved to the point where that’s not part of the criteria anymore?

AMBASSADOR RICE: I stand by what I just explained.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. NULAND: Good. Thank you very much to our briefers. Safe travels to Juba, and thanks to all of you.

AMBASSADOR RICE: Thank you.

# # #