Ambassador Rice: Good morning, everyone. I just want to say a few words briefly on Mali and the discussion that we’re having on that topic in the Council today. We’ve had an informative exchange with Under-Secretaries-General Feltman and Ladsous on the way forward in Mali.
From the U.S. point of view, we fully support a multidimensional, integrated UN operation under Chapter VII, led by a strong Secretary-General’s Special Representative—that can sustain the security gains made by French and African forces in recent months and galvanize the political process.
The purpose of the UN operation, in our view, should be to contribute to the development of a secure, inclusive, and democratic state in Mali that includes all of the country’s communities, and to support the full restoration of Malian sovereignty and territorial integrity. The transition from AFISMA to a UN blue-helmeted force under Chapter VII must occur, in our judgment, as soon as security conditions permit. And its role ought to be to stabilize the liberated areas and assist the Malian state in protecting civilians.
Effective UN leadership of such a mission can, very importantly, spur concrete steps towards a political transition, including an inclusive national dialogue, a reconciliation process, and democratic elections. So we’ll be consulting with our partners on the Council on next steps for such a blue-helmeted operation, and we will be working with our French colleagues and others on a draft resolution to accomplish that over the coming weeks.
Reporter: Ambassador, the ambassador from Cote D’Ivoire said that AFISMA should be integrated into a UN peacekeeping force with a robust mandate. Does that look likely?
Ambassador Rice: Well, that’s—I don’t want to speak for the ambassador of Cote D’Ivoire, but certainly the U.S. view is that any UN blue-helmeted force in this context needs to have a robust Chapter VII mandate to stabilize liberated areas and assist the Malian government in protecting civilians. It also needs to have a very strong political component that is focused on helping the Malians put in place a transition process that is inclusive, that is credible, that supports a democratic transformation and institution building, and that gets at some of the root causes of the problems that have plagued Mali for many years.
Reporter: What does the U.S. think of this idea of a parallel force, probably made up of French troops? And if you’re in favor of it, do you think it should be under the UN mandate? Under some kind of UN control, or more like the Force Licorne in Ivory Coast, which is kind of a parallel force?
Ambassador Rice: This is something that was raised and discussed in our consultations. And, frankly, I think we need real unified understanding and clarity on what is meant by this so-called parallel force. The United States and most members of the Security Council take the view that robust counterterrorism operations in the far north of Mali are not properly or reasonably a UN mission, and that those that have been engaged in those operations to date, plus others that may wish to join at the invitation of the Malian government, ought to do so and will need to do so separate and apart from the United Nations force which we view as principally having a stabilization mission on the military side.
There have been some alternative suggestions raised today about the nature of a parallel force that we have some questions about. But obviously, we do think there ought to be—and we ought to expect that there will continue to be—French and other partners of Mali engaged in robust counterterrorism operations in the far north. We would support that. We don’t see that that needs to be part of the UN mandate nor authorized by the United Nations, although I don’t think we’d object to the blessing of it by the Security Council. But that is how we envision any parallel military presence. There were some alternative ideas, as I suggested, floated today, which would seem to suggest that there would be a force alongside the United Nations doing the hard work of stabilization and peace enforcement and we don’t understand that logic of that frankly.
Reporter: A Sudan question?
Ambassador Rice: Let’s stay on Mali if we can.
Reporter: On Mali, do you have anyone in mind, are there any candidates who would be the special representative and then secondly, the ambassador of Mali seemed to indicate that the Tuaregs were not, hadn’t dissolved themselves. (Inaudible.)
Ambassador Rice: Is there a question on the Tuaregs?
Reporter: Yes, what is going to happen with them? What do you think should happen?
Ambassador Rice: And your first question?
Reporter: Are there candidates for the special representative?
Ambassador Rice: I think that is probably a question better addressed to the Secretary General and to the Secretariat. But obviously our view is that there are potential candidates out there and it is very important that we find one who is experienced, a strong hand with very capable political skills as well as experience in managing a complex and integrated UN mission.
With respect to the Tuaregs, obviously the Tuaregs are an integral community within Mali. There is a history of conflict and grievance that needs to be acknowledged and addressed and we think it is very important that the authorities in Bamako deal effectively and creatively in a political context with their Tuareg community and ensure that they are--their concerns are addressed and that they are treated appropriately as democratic consolidation moves forwards.
Reporter: Yes, I want to ask you on Sudan. There have been a lot of… there was an announcement by President Omar al-Bashir that “all political prisoners will be released” and some were calling it “Glasnost in Khartoum.” What is the U.S. view of these announcements?
Ambassador Rice: That would be nice. Obviously, we note the announcement by President Bashir that he intends to release all political prisoners and hold a national dialogue and I gather there were at least a handful that were released yesterday. We certainly would welcome and encourage the release of all political prisoners and we would hope that political prisoners would be defined as broadly in their release as they have been defined in their capture. And that indeed if that were to occur that would be an important step towards the kind of inclusive political process that is overdue in Khartoum and that would strengthen the Sudanese state and begin to address many of the concerns and grievances that have been at the root of the long-standing conflicts in various parts of Sudan.
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