Remarks on UN Reform, Lebanon and SudanAmbassador John R. Bolton, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
Remarks at a Security Council stakeout
New York City
April 26, 2006
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, hello again. I understand there were some discussions of the reform question that occurred earlier today and I thought I would just come out and see if there were any questions that any of you had on that subject or other subjects as well.
REPORTER: Ambassador, just in general, what's your expectation, what's going to happen tomorrow? The G-77 says they're not going to call for a vote, there's still no consensus. Are we just going to see this drag on (inaudible)?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Part of the issue here is what is the proper place to decide these questions and our view is that the proper place is the full General Assembly, among Perm Reps, not to get lost in the 5th Committee. The procedure in the 5th Committee, for what it's worth, is if the G-77 presses this resolution, on which there is wide disagreement, if they say we want to adopt it by consensus, the Chair will say, "Is there consensus?" And the European Union, Japan, the United States, the CANZ countries [Canada, Australia, New Zealand] will all say no, there's no consensus. And at that point, we were informed that the rules then trigger an automatic vote. So the impetus here is really with the G-77. If they press ahead, arguing there's consensus when there's not, then they will produce the vote in the 5th Committee. And we're working very hard not to have a vote, we'd prefer not to. But let's be clear, we don't fear a vote. We don't fear Congress and the American people seeing what the situation is up here. We don't fear that at all. But, what we'd like to try and do is accomplish what our leaders told us to do in September at the Summit, which was to say that the business as usual practices of the UN are inadequate and that it's time for reform. It's time for reform of management, it's time for a reform of programs. That's why our Secretary of State called for a lasting revolution of reform here. That's what we're after and those that stand in the way of it need to understand that our purpose has not changed.
REPORTER: Ambassador, one of the things that Ambassador Kumalo just said is that there's a little bit of a shakedown going on here. That the U.S. is reminding some countries what aid they've received and sort of pressuring and strong-arming them in supporting this with the avail threat that (inaudible) one, that they'll cut the aid or two (inaudible) …
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Bilateral assistance? That's absolutely not the case. We haven't raised bilateral assistance programs with anyone. I think the point to all 191 countries is very clear -- that the expenditure cap cut-off kicks in at the end of June and that's there by agreement of every country in the General Assembly. I would prefer and try and resolve the issues sooner rather than later so we have a longer period of time to discuss more substantial reform. That's why we're prepared to continue the discussions right now. It's not that we're trying to precipitate a vote in the 5th Committee, it's the G-77 moving a resolution that will effectively terminate the Secretary General's own proposals for reform.
REPORTER: Ambassador, just on the question of a vote. How significant an issue is that for the U.S.? I understand the tradition of consensus in the 5th Committee was part of the deal back in the late 80s to get the U.S. to come back here and pay back its money. If this deal is broken, what will be the impact?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I explained, maybe before you came, how a vote is triggered. And it is triggered when, as we have been advised by the staff of the Committee, the G-77 presses for the resolution to be adopted by consensus. The Chair will ask whether there is consensus. European Union, Japan, the CANZ countries, the United States and others will say there is no consensus, at which point if the G-77 continues to ask that the resolution be adopted, the only other mechanism is a vote. So, in other words, it would be precipitated by them, not by us.
REPORTER: I guess what I'm asking is, would going for a vote on the budget essentially would allow a majority of countries, but who pay a minority of funds, be a fundamental step back from the deal that was done back in the late 80s?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I think the G-77 better consider that very seriously before they press for a vote.
REPORTER: Ambassador Kumalo also says that he feels he's got assurances from Japan and the United States that the UN will still be in business after June 30 and he won't have to pack up his bags and go home. Is that an accurate reflection of what you told him?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: We've told him we want the UN to continue in business and what we have said repeatedly about the expenditure cap is that it is a form of intellectual discipline on the reform process.
REPORTER: How do you reconcile, Mr. Ambassador, the U.S.' stated position that spreading democracy throughout the world and the policy here at the UN that paying more should entitle you to a stronger voice and a stronger say (inaudible)?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I think what the United States has consistently said is because of our large stake in the operation of the United Nations, that we hope that the concerns we raise about the effective operation of the organization will be taken into account and countries that don't have that priority on efficiency, a priority that our leaders reaffirmed in September, just have a different view of the organization than we do.
REPORTER: Ambassador, is it your understanding that consensus will be essentially (inaudible)?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: My understanding is the G-77 position is that the consensus rule applies only on budget matters. I, myself, thought it was broader than that and our objective is to seek consensus agreement on the reforms because we'd like to see the entire organization following through on the commitments made by our heads of government in September.
Are there any other reform questions?
REPORTER: Yes, sir. Clarification about what we're likely to see tomorrow then in the likelihood that there will be a vote (inaudible)?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Ask Dumi again, that's all I can say. It's really up to him. Yes, ok, we can go to something else.
REPORTER: Mr. Ambassador, what actually the Security Council is ready to take in order to stop the Iranian influence in Lebanon ?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, we have been talking generally about how to respond to the most recent report under Resolution 1559. And I said earlier this morning, the U.S. has concluded, we think another resolution by the Security Council is warranted to highlight continuing Syrian failure to comply with the requirements of 1559, possibly also to take about its obligations in connection with the Hariri assassination under 1595. I view the references in the Secretary General's report to Iran 's disruptive and unhelpful role in Lebanon to be extremely important. It's the first time Iran was mentioned. I think it's important that the Secretary General, himself, described Iran's provocative role in the region that way and the financing that Iran …we all know that Iran supplies to Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the near alliance that Syria and Iran seem to have formed in recent months and the implications that has for peace and security in the region. So, I've spent, as all of you know, several years now worrying about the Iranian nuclear weapons program. But obviously now we also see the effect of the financing by the Iranian government of terrorist organizations and their effort to disrupt what we think should be progress toward a sovereign and democratic Lebanon . So, it's a very serious matter. We're in consultation about it. I can't really directly answer the question now how to address it in a Security Council resolution, but it's a matter of great importance, there's no doubt about that.
REPORTER: Mr. Ambassador, the letter the Syrian government had sent to the Secretary General and to the President of the Security Council, the letter says, "Pushing the Security Council by some parties to adopt new resolutions or statements…"
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: That would be us I take it?
REPORTER: (inaudible) "will not lead to calm down the situation in Lebanon or the region, but to the contrary it will escalate the situation of instability and tension." How do you read that and in another place in this letter the Syrians are saying delineating borders and exceeds the mandate of 1559?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I would say one of the most important new developments here, in this entire question, is the presentation that Prime Minister Siniora of Lebanon recently made at the Security Council, where he addressed essentially all of the important issues under 1559 and in the Secretary General's most recent report. And I think that the thing that came through, very clearly from Prime Minister Siniora's presentation, was how much he would welcome assistance from the Security Council in securing the implementation of 1559. So, you know, when the Syrians, the Syrian government tells us what the situation in Lebanon is, that's not something that I would take to have a very high degree of credibility. I'd rather listen to the freely elected Prime Minister of Lebanon tell the Security Council what he needs for us to be helpful to him. And I think that regardless of what Syria or Iran say about the Council's deliberations, I think Prime Minister Siniora's observations are going to weigh very heavily with us.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: It's really a reflection on Syria 's credibility and the first thing I'd do would be to urge them to read 1559 again. That's why we've been talking about the delineation and demarcation of the border, that's why it's such an important issue, because it goes to the fundamental reality that we're trying to create, which is a free, independent, sovereign Lebanon . The demarcation of a border -- well, first the delineation then the demarcation of a border between two sovereign countries is a pretty fundamental point. If the Syrians don't acknowledge that, I think that's a continuing indication by Syria they really don't think Lebanon is an independent country.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Can we do one or two more on Lebanon ?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I think the overwhelming preponderance of the evidence is that Shebaa Farms is Syrian territory. And the Security Council itself has said expressly in the past that Israel has withdrawn from all Lebanese territory it previously occupied. Now the Prime Minister has commented on the question of the importance of Shebaa Farms to Hezbollah's continuing claim that it has some justification for being armed, I think that the most important point, whatever one does with Shebaa Farms, is that it's unacceptable in a democratic society for something that purports to be a political society to be an armed militia as well. And so from that perspective I don't think Hezbollah has any credible argument that it needs to remain a paramilitary force, and as I say, I think that's without regard to what you do about Shebaa Farms.
REPORTER: But they say these issues are bilateral issues that the Security Council is interfering.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: If I thought the Syrian government were going to show any serious indication of treating the Lebanese government as a sovereign equal, as the Charter of the UN prescribes, that would be one thing, then you might worry about the Council interfering. That's a point that would have some force. But Syria continues to disdain some of the most basic requirements of both 1559 and the notion of sovereign equality in the way it treats Lebanon . So I think the Syrian government's arguments have no credibility at this point.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: One more on Lebanon , yes.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, the point is that at this point the international position, including that of the United Nations, is that territory that Israel is occupying is Syrian territory and therefore is a matter for resolution between Israel and Syria . What the position of the government of Israel would be if there were a shift in sovereignty is something we'd have to ascertain. But that's why I think it's important that we need not to focus on Shebaa Farms exclusively, we need to look at the entire relationship between Syria and Lebanon . And that's where Syria has failed and failed and failed again. Okay, Sudan .
REPORTER: (inaudible) What's the direction the Security Council should go?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I think, and I said this inside after the briefing while the Secretary General was still there, is that we regard the planning that's been done the desktop planning by the UN as very important and I'm sure quite professional. But it's clear that the planning cannot be complete until a UN assessment team is allowed onto the ground into the three Darfur Provinces. Assistant Secretary General Annabi called such a team indispensable -- he called it essential, he said you simply can't plan a peacekeeping operation where we don't have contact with the parties on the ground. And the argument that it has to wait for Abuja , that it has to wait for the consent of Khartoum assumes that the information that the team could gather now doesn't need to be fed into the planning process at some point. This is just delaying and delaying and delaying and it's consistent with the pattern that the Sudanese government has followed for years in this. And despite what the African Union said quite helpfully about supporting, in principle, the transition from AMIS to UNMIS, the government of Sudan continues to resist. And if they drive the process, we will not have a transition or if it is, it won't be effective, and that's not something that we find acceptable.
REPORTER: (inaudible) the options?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: No, and I think the Secretariat would tell you -- you can't evaluate the options. You can do planning at your desktop, you can read about an area and you can think about it and talk to potential troop contributors, among other things. But I think the historical experience of peacekeeping has been without eyes and ears on the ground to assist the planning you're running a substantial risk that the mission will not be successful. And that goes, I might say, not just to the question of transition between AMIS and UNMIS some time this fall, it also goes to the important issue of beefing up the AMIS force in the interim. Again you can't really make effective planning decisions about how to support AMIS if AMIS's role is extended until you have eyes and ears on the ground.
REPORTER: (inaudible) again the administration has called this genocide.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: So have I.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I'm part of the administration.
REPORTER: (inaudible) naming relatively low-level participants in this conflict, does that fulfill the U.S. obligation (inaudible)?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I think the question -- the interpretation of the obligations that arise once you determine there's a genocide is a longer, separate matter we can discuss. But I've said repeatedly, as have others in the U.S. government that the four people who were sanctioned yesterday constitute just a first step, and that there is additional information that we are looking at and I'm fully expecting that there will be other individuals named in sanctions resolutions. We have been in the forefront of trying to restore peace and security in the Darfur region by getting a transition to a more effective force, a UN force, that would have more access to the region as a whole and therefore be more likely to be able to stop or deter the continuing human rights violations. So I think that the U.S. government has really been more active on that score than anybody else.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: You know the Secretary is in there now talking with other NATO partners. These are all decisions that need to made down the road, but one reason we need the planning is so that we know what exactly the face of the decision is that is in front of us. And you can speculate, people are speculating, and I think properly, about the size, the scope, the deployment of the UN force, we could eliminate a lot of the speculation, it would be made unnecessary if we had hard facts about what the deployment is going to require. And as I've said before, that depends on having eyes and ears on the ground. Otherwise the information is necessarily incomplete and the planning is necessarily incomplete. And the likely effect of that is to push off into the future the point at which the transition could occur. That's not a good thing because the African Union force, for all the effectiveness it's had, has obviously not succeeded in bringing the level of violence down. In fact, there are reports just today of artillery fire by Sudanese government forces, that would be a dramatic step up in the escalation of the use of force by the Sudanese government. What this says to us is we need to move more quickly. And at the same time the government of Sudan is saying no, you can't do what you need to do to plan an effective force. That's obviously not something we can live with. So anything else? I'm sure I'll be back shortly.
Released on April 26, 2006