Ambassador Rice: Good morning, everyone, and it is indeed a good morning. We had the opportunity in the Security Council to, by acclamation, recommend to the General Assembly that the Republic of South Sudan be admitted as the newest and 193rd member state of the United Nations. I’m very much looking forward to tomorrow in the General Assembly when we have the opportunity to formally admit the Republic of South Sudan. As many of you know, I had the privilege of leading the U.S. delegation to Juba on the weekend. It was a moment of enormous joy and optimism, and it was a personal and professional honor to be able to witness that and to convey on behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States our strongest support and enthusiasm for the independence of the Republic of South Sudan.
But obviously very, very significant challenges remain both for South Sudan as a newborn country and certainly with respect to the relationship between the government of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan, as they still need to resolve many complex remaining outstanding CPA issues. And as I said today in the Council, we’re deeply, deeply concerned about the escalating violence in Southern Kordofan and potential to spill over into Blue Nile, the threats that persist for civilians and humanitarian crisis underway, and we have stressed the utmost urgency of an immediate cessation of hostilities and full humanitarian access. That issue has the potential to undermine progress in other areas and it’s one on which we are focused with great urgency. So let me stop there and take a few questions.
Reporter: Tomorrow afternoon the Security Council will be seeing a briefing on IAEA on its report on Syria’s nuclear facility. What does the U.S. see as the appropriate role for the Security Council going forward beyond that event? And what is the likelihood the Council, given its provisions, will be able to fulfill that expectation?
Ambassador Rice: Well, first of all, Bill, we think it’s very important and significant that the Council will take up, for the first time, the issue of the Syrian nuclear facility. We support it and very much welcome and think it was appropriate for the IAEA to refer this issue to the Security Council. So tomorrow’s meeting in itself is an important step and an important event. We will hear directly from the IAEA, what we hope will be a detailed summary of their report. and that will begin a process of discussion within the Security Council. But I think as was obvious given the vote in Vienna that there are certain members of the Council, and several members of the Council in fact, including some veto-wielding members, who did not support the referral and who are unlikely to be prepared to support a Council product at this time. And I think that’s the reality. But our view is that, nonetheless, it’s very important that this issue be taken up by the Council, and certainly from the United States’ point of view, we’re very concerned, we take it seriously, and we think that any and all issues of nonproliferation need to be dealt with seriously by this Council.
Reporter: On Sudan, you said in your statement that, “the Government of Sudan has wavered in its commitment to this June 28th agreement about South Kordofan.” It seems like they’ve actually kind of totally broken it. They’ve said that they don’t stand behind it. What’s your understanding of where it stands? What can the UN peackekeepers that are there do even pending an agreement? And also Darfur, which I didn’t see mentioned -- what does today’s development in South Sudan mean for the people in Darfur? Is there a loss of focus? What are the implications for the conflict in Darfur?
Ambassador Rice: First of all, with respect to Southern Kordofan, the Government of Sudan did sign an agreement. And it would be most unfortunate if they formally reneged on that agreement. We’ve been concerned to see that senior leaders in Khartoum have expressed reservations and concerns about that agreement. It was an important step, and our view is that it ought to be respected and followed by an immediate agreement on a cessation of hostilities. I also mentioned in my statement the United States’ deep regret that the Government of Sudan has compelled the withdrawal of UNMIS forces from the North, and this will have significant implications for the protection of civilians and humanitarian access in Southern Kordofan. As the UN forces are now by necessity having to withdraw, their ability to act and implement their prior mandate no longer pertains. And they are in the mode of withdrawal so they are not going to—unless the government of Sudan changes its mind—have the ability to do what we think is very important for them to do.
With respect to Darfur, we are very much still focused on the crisis in Darfur. It’s the subject of deep concern to the United States, to President Obama, and all in our government. We have not let up in our focus and attention, even as we have worked very hard to support the independence of South Sudan and successful implementation of the CPA. We will have ample time this month in the Council to give the attention that is necessary, and that will remain sustained attention to Darfur, as we renew the UNAMID mandate. And certainly, our efforts on behalf of the people of Darfur continue.
Reporter: (Inaudible) will we see an end of unilateral sanctions against Sudan?
Ambassador Rice: Well, I think first of all, the United States—I think that’s who he was referring to—has been very clear in our direct discussions with the Government of Sudan about our desire to improve our bilateral relationship and see it move in the direction of normalization. We have communicated very clearly—in black and white, repeatedly, to the Government of Sudan going back to last November—the roadmap that we envisioned for the improvement of our bilateral relations. That is staged and very much focused on Sudan, in the first instance, completely fulfilling its obligations under the CPA. And while certainly we celebrate the remarkable achievement of Saturday and the independence of the Republic of South Sudan, it goes without saying that many important aspects of the CPA remain unresolved, including issues of the border, of revenue sharing, of citizenship, of Abyei, and indeed the situations in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile which are very much a part of the CPA. So, we hope that circumstances will soon be such that these issues are addressed and resolved and that we have a resumption of a more stable security situation in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile and the opportunity for the popular consultations to continue as envisioned. And that’s why the agreement that was signed between the SPLM-North and the government with respect to Southern Kordofan was important. But that has always been very clearly, from a U.S. point of view, the full implementation of the CPA, a critical element in the first stage which would accompany reciprocal steps on the United States side for improvement in the bilateral relationship.
Ambassador Rice: Well, first of all we think it was very important that the Council issued the press statement that it did yesterday, strongly condemning the attacks on the U.S. Embassy, U.S. residents, and the French Embassy, which were outrageous and utterly unacceptable. The United States has been very, very clear in our forceful condemnation of the violence and actions of the Government of Syria as it continues to violate the rights of its citizens and use indiscriminate force to suppress the legitimate efforts and aspirations of the people of Syria to express their political will in peace and freedom. And so, we are very focused, as you have heard from Secretary Clinton and President Obama on making very clear that what has transpired and the actions of President Assad and the Government of Syria are utterly unacceptable, and indeed he is well on the way, as President Obama said, and increasingly losing his legitimacy.
That said, we have not, quite plainly, been able to forge a sufficient agreement in this Council on a strong statement or resolution condemning what has transpired in Syria. That is something that I regret, I know many of my colleagues on the council regret. We think it is not a good reflection on this Council that we have not yet been able to come together on that.
Ambassador Rice: We think that it is wise to treat the issues of the nuclear program and the political circumstances separately. And so I don’t think they will be conflated tomorrow. Thank you.
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