Saturday, April 9, 2011

After Vetoing Settlements Resolution, Rice Says Trip's No Longer Viable, Denies Lobbying to Remove Sponsors

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 18, updated -- After the veto cast by US Ambassador Susan Rice to the Israeli settlements resolution, the post-veto spin began. Rice scheduled a conference call with some reporters, rather than appearing at the UN Security Council stakeout.

Inner City Press asked, as the first question, about the US role in getting countries to drop off the sponsors list, like the five first reported by Inner City Press, Honduras, Trinidad & Tobago, Panama, Kazakhstan and Cameroon, and about why the US doesn't still support the Middle East trip. Here's a transcription of Rice's answer, to which we'll be returning:

We were not in the business of lobbying for or against cosponsors for this resolution. Our aim was not to have the outcome today, of the Council not being able to speak with one voice. Our aim was to advance this process through a 3-part constructive proposal that had the support of many members of the Security Council that we think would have been unanimously embraced, and that included the Russian proposal for a trip to the region [first in over 30 years]...

a very strong Presidential Statement from the Security Council which would have gone further than we have gone of late on the issue of settlements and other important issues, that would have been agreed by the Council, and we also would have been willing to use the use the upcoming Quartet statement for making some new and important statements on core issues including territory, as well as settlements. It is in our view very unfortunate that this proposal, which would have gotten unanimous support of the Council, was not accepted, because it would have led to process forward rather than lead to the outcome we had today. But the proposal of the trip to the region seems even more complicated today than it was yesterday and I think its viability is quite questionable at this point.

Inner City Press asked again, but what has changed in terms of the trip being a good idea?

Rice responded, the Council is not in agreement. This came to a vote, which was unfortunate. Our proposal had 3 elements that, taken together, would have moved the process forward. The parties didn't choose to accept that, which means they didn't place sufficient value on the utility of a trip, and the other elements.

Back at the UN Security Council stakeout, Palestine's Permanent Observer Riyad Mansour bragged about the support shown by the resolution's sponsors.

Inner City Press asked Mansour about countries which dropped off the sponsors' list, like Honduras, Trinidad & Tobago, Panama, Kazakhstan and Cameroon. Yes but some also joined, he said, saying that only Israel supports its own settlements.

On the proposed Council trip to the Middle East, Inner City Press asked Mansour if it would still be a good idea. Yes, he said, it would address Israel - Lebanon as well.

When Lebanon's Permanent Representative took to the stakeout, Inner City Press asked him about escalating rhetoric between Israel and Hezbollah. That's not what we're here for today, he said, turning to take another question. But you're asked as Lebanon's Ambassador.

On the trip, some opine that the US' offer was a bluff, asking how could the Council and US go to Lebanon (and meet Hezbollah), the Gaza Strip (and meet Hamas), and Egypt at this time? But Susan Rice said that the trip would have moved the process forward. Why not now? Watch this site.

Update: the US's transcript has at least two errors, on identity of questioner, and saying Kyrgyzstan instead of Kazakhstan....