Joint Press Conference With U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan General Scott Gration And Senator John Kerry

Special Briefing
Scott Gration
Special Envoy to Sudan 
Juba, Sudan
January 8, 2011

MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, we are very much honored today by the visit of our brother from America. This is Special – U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan General Scott Gration (inaudible). Next to him is Senator John Kerry, a tall man. He’s not a (inaudible) man, now, is he? (Laughter.) You can see also the Americans could be as tall as we are. He’s even taller than us.

So we – I welcome them on your behalf. They’ve come all the way to come and express their solidarity with us and to make sure that we are doing it the right way, because we are not as (inaudible) as the American democratic system, but I think we are learning. So it’s a great pleasure to have – sorry, I have forgotten one of our best friends, Ambassador Walkley (inaudible) he is there. I know most of you who are there know him.

So I would like to welcome General Gration to say a few words and to say hi to you.

MR. GRATION: Well, thank you very much. What a wonderful day. Many of us have been looking forward to this day for a very long time. This is an historic milestone and it’s an event that is not only life-changing for the people of Southern Sudan, but it will be a significant event for all of Africa and the rest of the world.

I know that this day has been made possible by the words of many – many of you that are represented in this crowd. But especially, I want to thank the chairman of the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission, Professor Khalil. I also want to thank my friend (inaudible). (Inaudible) has been a tremendous individual in terms of dedication, in terms of leadership, and in terms of working through some very difficult issues. And I wanted to thank you for your personal dedication. I know this has been very difficult at times, but you’ve succeeded, and we’re all extremely proud of you as you look around and see what is happening in your country. And it’s traceable to this building, it’s traceable to your leadership and your staff, so thank you very much.

This CPA also recognizes the commitment between the North and the South, and we’ve been very encouraged by the statements that the leaders of both parties have put out in recent days, commitments about honoring and recognizing the results of this very important referendum. And we also understand that this referendum is really, in many ways, just the beginning. And no matter what the results will be, the reality is, is that the longest border between the North and the South will remain that 1,936-kilometer border that may be the border of two sovereign nations. And we also know that coordination, communication, agreements, and cooperation across that border will be critical. And so what you’ve done today by putting together a on-time, peaceful, transparent referendum really marks the beginning.

Several other issues have to be resolved in the next couple months as we approach the end of the interim period, and those include Abyei. And we call upon the leaders to ensure that the people of Abyei, the constituents, can have their needs, their aspirations, and their rights met in accordance with the Abyei protocol and the PCA ruling. And we’re confident that this is possible and we want this to happen as soon as possible. We also can’t forget the popular consultations in Blue Nile and in Southern Kordofan. These are very important, and we call upon Khartoum and others to recognize these results and ensure that they take place.

Before I step off, I want to assure you of the United States commitment to both parties, to the North and to the South. President Obama has personally invested in Sudan. He took part in the United Nations General Assembly and he is briefed every day on what happens here. And that same commitment will continue after the referendum, after the end of the interim period, and for as long as our two countries have this relationship – and maybe three countries have this relationship.

So I want to leave you with the commitment that the President and our country has made to ensure that this land remains a land of security, stability, and prosperity and peace. This wouldn’t have happened in the United States without an all-of-government approach. And our Congress has been key to our commitment and has been key to our support and has been key to our assistance to Sudan. And one of the leaders of our Congress who has led the way, he has come out here repeatedly to demonstrate his support and assistance, is Senator John Kerry. And I want to say, Senator, thank you very much. It’s your support and your commitment that has brought us to this point, and I appreciate that.

And now, I’d like to turn the mike over to him. (Applause.)

SENATOR KERRY: Well, General Gration, thank you very, very much. Let me begin by congratulating the people of Sudan, North and South, and the Sudan – the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission for its extraordinary work to bring this country to this place the evening before an historic vote.

I want to join General Gration in congratulating Professor Mohammed Khalil, who has led the efforts in the North, and the referendum bureau and Justice Chan Madut here in Juba, who has really shown remarkable initiative and leadership in doing things that he wasn’t certain would necessarily get the support in one place or another, but he exercised judgment, he exercised leadership, and he has put together a remarkable operation in the building behind us that will help to process the votes when they start coming in at the end of the week of voting.

It’s their efforts that are responsible for where we are, theirs and the fundamental decisions made by the leaders of this country in signing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and determining to try to choose a different path forward for this country. We’ve been privileged – we being General Gration, the special envoy of the President of the United States, who has been here time and again over the last two years; Ambassador Princeton Lyman, who has been negotiating and working hard on all of these issues; Ambassador Walkley here in Juba – all of them have been working as a team representing the people of the United States at the specific direction of the President, President Obama, and Secretary Clinton and the State Department.

And they all deserve – all of the parts of their operation – USAID and the cooperation with the United Nations, our ambassador to the United Nations – all of them have (inaudible). But I want to emphasize this: They – we – are not responsible for what is happening here. What is happening here is happening because the people of Sudan set out on this track and because the leaders agreed in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that this is the road that we would go down. That decision was made five and a half, six years ago. And we’re coming now to this critical juncture where we may or may not have two new nations born of the same history suddenly moving together to write a new history.

So this is the end of one chapter, if indeed there is a vote to be independent, and the beginning of the new chapter. In fact, no matter what happens, it’s the beginning of a new chapter because issues are going to have to continue to be resolved, as General Gration has said, regarding oil revenues, the relationship between North and South, security arrangements, and other kinds of issues. We are prepared – in fact, anxious – to be part of helping to write that next chapter.

It is no secret that the relationship between the United States and Sudan became difficult during a period of time 15 or 20 years ago. All of us would like to change that. And the leaders in the North have made it clear by embracing this referendum, and in President Bashir’s visit here just a few days ago he made it clear, that they are prepared to embrace and recognize the results and, no matter what, help to build this new future.

It’s very rare in anybody’s lifetime that you have the opportunity in a country of this size, in a place as important as this, to be able to make this kind of choice and to begin to rewrite history. So all of us are excited. What happens in Sudan, some people may be scratching their heads in some parts of the world and saying, “Well, how does this affect me?” Well, the truth is that the stability of Sudan is important to all of us. In a world that has become increasingly more complicated, increasingly more volatile, increasingly more extreme in various places, we want to see Sudan, North and South, contribute to global stability and become a partner for peace all around the world. That’s the future that we can grab onto tomorrow, and we’re proud to be here today to help contribute to it. Thank you. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: Before I (inaudible), we have some (inaudible) for our friends so that when they are in America, they will (inaudible) to the North something about Southern Sudan (inaudible). (Applause.) Thank you, Senator John Kerry. (Applause.)

SENATOR KERRY: Thank you very much. Thank you very, very much.

MODERATOR: (Off-mike.)

SENATOR KERRY: You should see this. It’s quite extraordinary. It’s going up in my office. (Laughter and applause.) I’m feeling very special (inaudible).

STAFF: And now the floor is open for the media to ask questions, and (inaudible) four questions, please. We would ask that you identify yourself, please, before you ask a question, and your affiliation. Do we have a question? All right.

QUESTION: Hi, I’m Jared Ferrie from Bloomberg News. You spoke about the difficult relationship between the United States and Sudan 20 years ago, and I wonder how the result of this referendum might change that specifically in regards to the (inaudible).

SENATOR KERRY: President Obama made it clear in a letter that he wrote to me several months ago which has been shared with your leaders, North and South. He made it clear in that letter that if this referendum takes place on time, if it takes place peacefully, if the results are recognized as legitimate and accepted by the North, that he will then initiate the process to have the evaluation made by our agencies in order to see if that can be lifted. I believe, having checked preliminarily with some of those agencies, that there is strong argument that it can and should be lifted. And at the appropriate time, I’ll say more about that publicly.

But clearly, this initiative and the resolution of the other issues that need to be completed over the course of the next weeks and months – those are the key to opening the door to an entirely new relationship between the West and the United States and Sudan. And that includes not just the issues of the state sponsored terror designation, but it also includes the question of sanctions, the normalization of relationship between the United States, the sending of an ambassador to one country or two depending on the outcome of the referendum, and also the resolution of Darfur.

And the President remains highly focused on the question of Darfur. All Americans are concerned about that. That’s one of the things that’s (inaudible) in our policy over the course of these last years. But I am confident based on the conversations I’ve had in the North and here – and I think General Gration, whose efforts are going to be very much focused on Darfur and on the post-CPA efforts, would confirm that all of this can be resolved in the course of negotiations, and we think much of it can be resolved very quickly.

So this is part of what makes this moment so critical. It really can define the relationship between Sudan, North and South, and the United States and the West. And that’s what’s on the table.

Do you want to add anything?

QUESTION: Senator Kerry, Frank Langfitt from National Public Radio. Having control of (inaudible), how do you see (inaudible) violence (inaudible)?

SENATOR KERRY: Well, I think it’s safe to say that when Secretary Clinton uttered those words, a lot of people were deeply concerned about where we were with respect to the preparations for this referendum. And it’s, frankly, due to the courage of people like Justice Chan, through the extraordinary efforts of people on the ground – international, many, many different players – the United Nations, USAID, the Carter Center, the Norwegians, the Dutch, the British, the French. Many people have been involved in this. And it’s that international effort that, frankly, stepped up together with the bona fide efforts of the leaders in the North to help to guarantee that we could proceed forward, all of which have brought us to this moment.

So are there still risks? The answer is yes. But they have been very significantly reduced, if not diminished, over the course of these last months. President Bashir’s visit here and his embrace of this process is, in fact, a significant contribution to the climate within which this referendum will take place. And so I think all of us can be grateful that the work has been done to put this in a position to start on time tomorrow, and the Sudanese people are going to write the history of what this referendum means and of where it goes from here.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) there have been allegations in the past that the (inaudible).

MR. GRATION: Well, first of all, let me correct that statement. We have not made any kind of position, as we were the mediators and facilitators to the Abyei talks. Our goal was to establish an environment where the parties themselves can come up with an agreement. It is true that we put some options on the table to consider, but we never made any commitment as to what option was a better option, what option they should choose. We still maintain that Abyei needs to be resolved. And this is a tough issue, as you know. It’s a passionate issue. It’s one that has been very difficult to come up to a solution.

But we believe that this is an issue that has to be resolved if we want to have a lasting and durable peace. And the rights of the Ngok Dinka and the claims of the Misseriya are going to have to be worked out in a way that satisfies both groups and both parties. And we will continue to work with the North, we’ll continue to work with the South, to do anything we can to help facilitate a solution that will result in peace and a final solution for Abyei that satisfies both parties. Thank you.

STAFF: Other questions? (Inaudible.) All right. Thank you all very much. We appreciate your time. (Applause.)

PRN: 2011/035