Ambassador Rice: Good morning, everyone, or is it afternoon already? It’s just afternoon. We of course had a discussion today in the Council on Sudan and South Sudan. Members of the Council—and the United States among them—welcomed the recently signed agreements between South Sudan and Sudan in Addis Ababa, which we hope, if fully implemented, will begin the process long overdue of establishing a secure border demilitarized zone and a joint verification monitoring mechanism and get the other key elements of the September 27th agreements underway, including the resumption of the flow of oil, both of which are manifestly in the interests of each country. The United States’ position, which we stressed and many other delegations did as well, is that there have been many agreements signed but too few actually implemented. And again the urgency and the necessity is that these agreements are not just signed and touted but in fact implemented in real terms promptly on the ground. These are joined with a concrete timetable that the parties have subscribed to, so it will be very clear to all in short order whether or not these agreements are in fact being implemented. And the Council, I hope, will continue to follow this closely and place a premium on monitoring effective implementation.
There are unfortunately, however, important aspects of the previously agreed arrangements between the two parties that remain unaddressed and still very much outstanding, most notably the dire situation in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile where, as Special Envoy Menkerios reported, the SPLM-North has been sitting, waiting for the talks that have been convened to occur. They are ready and willing to participate. Khartoum has twice refused to join those talks on a cessation of hostilities and humanitarian access, and Special Envoy Menkerios made plain that they are putting up new conditions, which are in direct contravention of the previous agreements. So it is clear that Khartoum must return to the table, sit down with the SPLM-North, negotiate the cessation of hostilities and the humanitarian access which is vital for the people of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, which they have refused to do to date.
At the same time, the situation in Abyei remains unaddressed and stalled, and that too is of grave concern to the United States and to members of the Security Council. There, also, the parties need to act—and Khartoum in particular—to implement what it is committed to, including the establishment of the administrative mechanisms, particularly the police and the withdrawal of their own oil police. So there are some important steps that we hope will signify progress on the ground, but as we learned before, that is by no means assured simply because the agreements are signed. We want to see the signed agreements implemented promptly, fully, and effectively, and the outstanding issues—most importantly the dire situation in the Two Areas and the situation which is now languishing in Abyei—to be addressed.
We had discussions in the Council about whether the Council would be in a position to speak on this issue finally. For months, the Council has not pronounced itself in a formal product on the issue of Sudan and South Sudan. Since our last meeting two weeks ago, we’ve been negotiating with the full Council and particular countries as well on a draft PRST. We were close to agreement on that, and we were very ready to update it to take account of recent events. Unfortunately, perhaps in the interests of derailing such a PRST, the Russian Federation, which does not typically utilize the pen on South Sudan or Sudan, tabled a draft press statement, which only discussed a very narrow aspect of the substance of the larger press statement and excluded language on the Two Areas, excluded mention of the cross border incidents, including the aerial bombardments, which were confirmed by Herve Ladsous yet again today and which did not mention the situation in Abyei. And they were unwilling to commit to a swift issuance of a PRST at the same time, and we therefore objected to the issuance of a press statement that was—or even elements to the press—that were divorced from the larger set of issues. So it is unfortunate that yet again this Council will not be speaking in a unified fashion in public on Sudan and South Sudan, but I think on the scope of the issues, there was broad agreement within the Council that these agreements have been signed, that that’s a good thing, they must be implemented otherwise it is just another piece of paper, but that many, many members of the Council are gravely concerned about the Two Areas and the lack of seriousness thus far demonstrated by Khartoum.
Reporter: I was wondering if you could answer directly, the Ambassador of Sudan Daffa-Alla said that he thinks that the non-passage of the PRST in some way made his government more open to reaching the agreement with South Sudan. What do you think of that? And also on the Two Areas, is it the AU’s fault as well? Is the AU mediation team pushing the dates back? Is it just a matter of Khartoum or does the U.S. feel the AU should set a date for the talks to begin and try to get that moving? I think there is some criticism of the AU by the SPLM-North.
Ambassador Rice: Well the AU has set a date twice—the 5th, I believe, and the 10th—and the SPLM-North was ready, its delegation waiting, as was reported to us by Haile Menkerios, to proceed to Addis for the talks, but Khartoum refused to show and in fact put additional conditions in place, as was reported to the Council, and thus the talks have not resumed. I will let the Sudanese Ambassador speak for the Government of Sudan.
Reporter: Ambassador, on a non-Sudan-related issue. Mary Robinson is the top candidate for the Great Lakes envoy position. Do you think that this is a good choice? Is this is the kind of person who can give weight to that? And then, second question, several Swiss companies have acknowledged to supplying Iran with aluminum oxide in barter agreements, and some people are saying that this could be in violation of either the spirit or the letter of 1929. What’s your position?
Ambassador Rice: Lou, I’m unfamiliar with the materials you described that may have been supplied to Iran, so I can’t comment with any certainty on either what it is or whether it’s a violation. We are happy to take a look at that. With respect to the Secretary-General’s choice for special envoy for the Great Lakes region, I’d prefer to wait until his decision is taken and agreed by the countries concerned and announced, and at that point, I’m happy to comment. But obviously we—I and the United States has great respect for Mary Robinson.
Reporter: Not on Sudan, I’m sorry, but on Syria: the Grand Mufti of Syria, Hassoun, and also the Fatwa Council—the High Fatwa Council in Syria has issued an edict yesterday, a fatwa that all Syrians and Arabs and Muslims must defend Syria and the regime. For a regime that pretends—that claims that it is the most secular in the area, do you have any comment on such fatwa, why the Supreme Council in Syria…?
Ambassador Rice: I am not in the habit of commenting on fatwas.
Reporter: Madame Ambassador, on Sudan and South Sudan, what’s the United States doing or can they do anything to try and ensure—help ensure that this time the agreement is actually going to be implemented and in this case that oil will actually start flowing? And on the other key issues—Abyei and the Blue Nile and South Kordofan—is the U.S. doing anything specific to try and get those issues moving?
Ambassador Rice: Well, the United States as you know has played a leading role both in supporting the implementation of these agreements but also supporting the negotiation of these agreements, and we remain active in support of Special Envoy Menkerios and Thabo Mbeki’s efforts. Special Envoy Princeton Lyman has been very, very actively engaged for some years in this process, including these most recent efforts, so we will continue that. But the Security Council, Edie, has a role to play. We passed Resolution 2046 that made very clear that we would follow the implementation of our demands under Chapter VII very carefully, which is why we meet every two weeks on this issue. And we will continue to insist that the Council uphold its responsibility to implement 2046 and hold the parties to their obligations. Now, the aim of the Council in passing 2046 was not to punish the parties or to sanction the parties for the sake of sanctioning. It was, frankly, to spur the parties towards reaching the agreements that needed to be reached and implementing those agreements, and if indeed the Council’s continued attention to this issue has had a salutary impact in some respects and will continue to do so, then our work has been beneficial. But I think it is unfortunate when we have the kinds of gambits that we witnessed today that the Council is not able to speak in a unified way, comprehensively about all elements of 2046 and to assess objectively the progress, welcoming it where it is deserved—as I did earlier in my statement—and noting where it is lacking.
Thank you very much.
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