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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Secretary Clinton Remarks Following UNSC Meeting on Syria

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
United Nations
New York City
January 31, 2012

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon.

I think we saw once again the deep concern that the international community has over the situation in Syria and the determination to act, to try to bring an end to the killing and terrible abuses that is ongoing. We will have a concerted effort over the next days to reach agreement in the Security Council to put forth a resolution that sends a message to President Assad and his regime. I think it was made abundantly clear that the Arab League has played an essential leadership role, and we want to support the Arab League’s position, and we want to underscore that there is no intention to seek any authority or to pursue any kind of military intervention.

This is a crisis that should be resolved peacefully. In order to do that, the United States believes that President Assad should step away and permit others to begin the process of negotiating a political transition that will lead to elections and the fulfillment of the aspirations and universal human rights of the Syrian people.

So I am pleased at the statements that were made. And even those who have some concerns said today that they understand the need to act and that we do have to support what the Arab League has worked so hard to achieve. I think that’s the right position, and now the hard work about how to translate that into a resolution goes forward.

I’ll take two questions.

QUESTION: Secretary, if the Russians go ahead and block it, what options does the United --

SECRETARY CLINTON: You know what? We’re not – we’re going to be just working over the next two days very diligently to follow up on this extraordinary Security Council session, and I’m not prepared to anticipate what is going to be the outcome.

QUESTION: If I could try and follow up on that. I think you left no hint today – between your comments, the foreign secretary’s comments, and Foreign Minister Juppe’s comments, taken with a very tough statement by Ambassador Rice yesterday – that you think Russia is blocking movement by the Council. And over the last 48 hours, Foreign Minister Lavrov has publicly said that he doesn’t want to talk to you because he’s busy in Australia, and so clearly he’s skirting serious discussion with you directly on this issue.

So what is all this chest beating here at the United Nations for if at the end of the day, the Russians aren’t going to meaningfully work towards a solution? Or are you concerned that you’ll have to water down this resolution so much that it doesn’t take into the spirit of the Arab League report that you endorse?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, Elise, I am going to be speaking with Sergey Lavrov. He is traveling in Australia. I’ve actually traveled in Australia. It is sometimes difficult to make connections. I don't think anyone should read anything into that. I think what’s important is the resolve that has been demonstrated so clearly today by the Arab League and by a majority of the members of the Security Council that action is called for. There was a repeating of the chronology, starting with the presidential statement back in August, and the numbers of deaths continue to rise. So this is not sustainable. We have to make a very clear statement from the Security Council supporting the Arab League’s leadership and calling for a path forward that will be followed by the Assad regime.

And obviously, the United States and I personally care deeply about what is happening in Syria. I also understand some of the doubts and concerns of the Syrian people, which I addressed directly today in my statement. If this were easy, it would have already been done. There are a lot of issues and concerns that have to be addressed.

But at the end of the day, every member of that Security Council has a choice to make. If you do not choose to try to stand on the side of the Syrian people, then you are standing on the side of the continuing killing and abuses that are carried out every single day. I know what side we’re on. I know what side the majority of the Council is on, and we will work until we can find a way to usefully support the Arab League’s initiative, send a clear message to the Assad regime and the people of Syria, and then work toward a peaceful resolution of this terrible conflict.

Thank you.

PRN: 2012/152

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