Ambassador Rice: I wanted to say a few words about Sudan, which we are discussing this morning in the Council. The United States is very gravely concerned about the escalation in tensions between the government of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan.
In particular, we condemn in the strongest possible terms the aerial bombardment of targets by the north in South Sudan—including the most outrageous, which was the bombing of Yida refugee camp, housing 20,000 people, repeatedly by air over the course of several hours. We heard that verified by the UN representative in South Sudan, validated by UNHCR personnel who were at the site at the time, and also reinforced by the report of Under-Secretary Ladsous.
This is not the only such bombing in recent days, but it is incontrovertible. And the fact that the representative of the government of Sudan came to the Council and blatantly lied is quite disturbing to the United States and to many other members of the Security Council.
This is a moment where both sides need to show maximum restraint. In the first instance, the government of Sudan needs to halt all offensive actions against the south. Immediately. And the South needs to have the wisdom and restraint not to take the bait and not to respond in kind.
A resumption of full scale direct conflict between the two parties will serve no one’s interests, and puts the future of both countries at grave risk. So in the Security Council, we are discussing the severity and the urgency of the situation. We will be talking about ways that, as a Council, collectively and individually as member states, we might prevail on the parties to de-escalate and return to the negotiating table and resolve the critical issues that divide them that can only be addressed through negotiations. I’m happy to take a couple of questions.
Reporter: My question is about Palestine, actually. Did the United States oppose the Palestinian application for membership because it doesn’t believe the Palestinians meet the criteria for membership, or because of political reasons such as that you think it might be bad for this process?
Ambassador Rice: I think we’ve addressed this issue extensively, both publicly and privately. And our views are accurately reflected in the report that was delivered.
Reporter: What about the fighting in Southern Kordofan? You spoke about North and South. You know, fighting that seems that a lot of this has to do with Sudan sort of blocking off the area, not allowing humanitarian access. What does the U.S. think about the fighting in Southern Kordofan? What should be done?
Ambassador Rice: We’re gravely concerned about the fighting in Southern Khartoum and Blue Nile. We are particularly outraged that now, many months into the fighting, there is no humanitarian access, that some 300,000 or more people have been displaced, and that they don’t have the ability to receive the food and the other support that they desperately need.
We have urged the government of Sudan to open up access, as has the United Nations and its humanitarian entities, and thus far they’ve refused. And I hope very much that the United Nations leadership who are most focused on humanitarian issues, as well as the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the African Union, will continue their efforts to prevail upon the government in Khartoum to open up access and stop allowing their own people to suffer so much.
Reporter: Another question on Palestine. Ambassador Mansour indicated that the Palestinian leadership hasn’t given up the option on pursuing the Security Council route in spite of them only having eight votes. What do you make of this [Inaudible]? What is the US doing to try to get the Palestinians to change course?
Ambassador Rice: The Palestinians have to make their own choice as to how to proceed. They’ve presented their application. The Council has done its part thus far, and, I think, reported in a timely and responsible way. And what the Palestinians decide to do next we will, I think, all be waiting to see. The United States has made its own views quite clear, both directly to the Palestinians and to the larger international community and the Council membership. We’ll look to see what they choose to do.
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