Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
November 8, 2022
QUESTION: Ambassador Greenfield, welcome to Albania and thank you for being here tonight.
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you for inviting me.
QUESTION: Ambassador Hoxha, thank you very much for being here tonight.
AMBASSADOR FERIT HOXHA: Thank you very much. I’m home.
QUESTION: How was your trip to Albania?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: So far, so good. I came in yesterday and immediately hit the ground running. Saw your beautiful city, walked through the square.
QUESTION: Lovely weather, I think.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: The weather was extraordinary and so far, I’ve been warmly welcomed. So, I have no complaints.
QUESTION: Did you visit something specific in our country, in our city let’s say.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, I came with a purpose. My purpose was to reaffirm our strong relationship with your government. We’ve had 100 years. And then, now I sit next door to this young man in the Security Council, and we are partners and very much allies in the Security Council.
QUESTION: Thank you, Ambassador. It is a little bit crazy imagining 30 years ago when you started your career at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be sitting next to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
AMBASSADOR HOXHA: Well, it’s more than crazy, just unbelievable. And what has happened is absolutely fantastic.
QUESTION: But it’s happened.
AMBASSADOR HOXHA: It has happened. But let me tell you one thing. When the Prime Minister asked me to represent Albania and to go back again to the United Nations and be where Albania has never been in the Security Council, I knew that it would be the honor of my life and the zenith of my career. But there was something I did not know, how closely we will work and how wonderful people I would meet and how strong our partnership with the United States and the U.S. Mission and with Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, who is not only the ambassador, who is not only a powerful woman, but is also a moral authority in the Council. And thank you very much.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: And a friend.
AMBASSADOR HOXHA: And a friend, of course.
QUESTION: Of course. To be a little bit more open. Okay. We collaborate. We are very close friends, but America is America. Albania’s a small country, it can help with some things. Really? Do you need our help?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We’re 15 votes –
QUESTION: Really –
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We’re 15 votes in the Security Council and every vote counts. So, Albania’s vote is as important as the American vote. And when we’re in the General Assembly, every single vote is equal. So yes, it may be a small country, but it’s a small country punching way above its weight.
QUESTION: Are you happy with our Ambassador to the United Nations?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I could not be happier with your Ambassador at the United Nations and with your country broadly. It’s been an extraordinary start, a really strong partnership that we have working on issues – whether it’s dealing with the situation in Ukraine, dealing with the recent attack by the Iranians on your cyber system here; we are working closely with Albania and that is a partnership that will always remain strong.
QUESTION: Normally, at the end of the two-year term of Albania in the Security Council, as a member of the Security Council, I will ask you, were you satisfied with Albania? Because now we are in the midterm of this. But I will ask the Ambassador Hoxha, what does it mean to be co-penholder with the United States of America in the United Nations?
AMBASSADOR HOXHA: Well, it was very easy, quickly, it was easy to do it for the people. Thank you for asking this question, because it was very easy to explain. Being co-penholder means to literally hold the pen, meaning that writing the first drafts, proposing, organizing –
QUESTION: Writing with two hands.
AMBASSADOR HOXHA: Sometimes. I mean on a computer, yes. But it means being on the frontline on the issue. So, the co-penholdership on Ukraine with the United States makes us the primary proposers for anything that will or might happen in the Council. And we are the first ones to call meetings. We are the first ones to propose documents like draft resolutions. We are the first ones to propose any common statements –
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: And we negotiate with other members together. So, his voice is as strong as my voice is, as a co-penholder, because we’re negotiating with our partners to get their support for the resolutions that we’re penning.
QUESTION: In the United Nations.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Yes.
QUESTION: May I ask you about the most important issue in the world, the topic in the world now is the war in Ukraine. Normally, is there any way to peace in Ukraine? And what are the red lines in this peace process? What will it be?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: The most direct way to peace in Ukraine is for Russia, for Putin, to pull their troops out of Ukraine. This is an unprovoked war. There was no reason for President Putin to move his troops inside of Ukraine. And so, we have worked together to isolate them in the Security Council and to isolate them in the General Assembly. They have been roundly condemned by the world for their actions. We got 143 countries to join us in condemning their annexations or attempted annexations in Ukraine. And they have heard loudly and clearly that we will not recognize Russia’s control over Ukrainian territory, that they have invaded.
QUESTION: Yes, that’s sure. But the problem is that Putin has put four territories of Ukraine, after a fake referendum and with the decision of the Parliament of Russia, under the territory or the borders of Russia. For sure, no country in the world will accept this occupation.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: None.
QUESTION: But now they’re under the protection of the nuclear protection of the Russian Federation. Is there any possibility that those territories will go back to Ukraine?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: The Ukrainians are fighting with every fiber of their body to regain control over their territory, and we are supporting them in every way possible for them to regain control over their territories.
QUESTION: Do you think that it will be a long war?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I can’t predict how long the war will be. It will end tomorrow if Russia makes the decision to pull its troops out. Ukrainians will have to fight because the day they stop fighting, they lose their country.
QUESTION: Not only them. All the free world, in a point of view.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: This is a war – this is an attack on all of the values that we stand for. It is an attack on the UN Charter. It’s an attack on the sovereignty of a smaller country – on that country’s territorial integrity. And we all have to work to defend them. And we have been partners in the Security Council in defending Ukraine.
QUESTION: Another question and then I ask Ambassador Hoxha. Normally, the attack by Russia on Ukraine is a violation of all, let’s say, the rules of the world and especially the Charter of the United Nations. Can Russia continue to be a member of the Security Council in the United Nations after this invasion?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, unfortunately, they are a member of the Security Council and –
QUESTION: But, in a new world now, because it is the first time since the Second World War to attack another country without any justification.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That is absolutely an appropriate question to ask. It is a new world; not only have they attacked another country and they’re a permanent member of the Security Council, they have threatened the use of nuclear weapons as well. And these are not the kinds of actions that one would expect from a country who is a permanent member of the Security Council.
AMBASSADOR HOXHA: And, if I may just complement the Ambassador, they are legally a member of Security Council, a member of the UN, but morally they have lost absolutely everything to be a member of a respected community as the United Nations. Because, as you rightly pointed out, the Charter and Article Two, which speaks about peace loving nations being part of the community, a community of nations, which are the United Nations. So morally, they have lost absolutely every seat that they have, but legally, yes, but the system is such.
QUESTION: You know, the nation is a problem too. If the war will continue, Russia will stay in the territory they have occupied. It is not their territory. And they then will continue to stay in the United Nations Security Council. That is kind of absurd.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: It’s a question that is raised regularly to all of us. It is something we think about on a regular basis. We have to deal with what we have at the table right now, and we’re going to continue to isolate them. We will continue to condemn them. And when we can’t, when on the floor of the Security Council, we’ll take it to the General Assembly, as we’ve done twice, and they have lost.
QUESTION: Thank you. Ambassador. Russia has been very aggressive with Albania at the diplomatic level, but also in society, on TV, and on Russian TV they’re attacking Albania. What is this problem between Russia and Albania?
AMBASSADOR HOXHA: There’s no problem with Russia and Albania. There’s a problem between Russia and the world. And Albania is part of the world. And we have seen that at the UN.
QUESTION: Russia is too big.
AMBASSADOR HOXHA: Is too big.
QUESTION: Russia is too big; we are too small. Why with us?
AMBASSADOR HOXHA: We are a member of the Security Council for these two years. So, we are among those who are not only discussing, not only taking positions, but also every time we can decide. And I hope that one day we will be in a position that the Council will decide on this issue as well. Not yet there, but they are picking up sort of a fight, if I correctly understood you, because we are a member of the regional group. So, we represent only two countries of the East European Group of States that are in the Council – it is Russia, a permanent member, and the elected member is Albania. And of course, the positions that we have taken, which are principle positions, we don’t have a problem with Russians – we have a problem with the Government of Russia with a decision that they’ve taken. And we are standing for these principles and values because these are the values which are at the core of our foreign policy. We don’t have a problem with them.
QUESTION: We believe in that, absolutely. Ambassador, President Putin is increasing the rhetoric of nuclear war. Is it only rhetoric or do we have to be afraid?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We have passed messages to President Putin both directly as well as through others, that it is unacceptable that he would use this kind of language as a permanent member of the Security Council. It is something that we don’t expect the country that is confident in itself enough to use that kind of language, but we’re taking him seriously. So, we are taking this seriously. We have raised it in the context of the Council, and we’re continuing to provide support for Ukraine in the event so that they can defend themselves.
QUESTION: It is a crazy situation. You have to think and deal only with one person, no institution, not parliament, not the other, only one man, a one-man show, this is crazy for this country – a big country like Russia. And I want to ask you now, everybody’s focused on Russia. Russia has problems also inside, big problems with the sanctions on the economy. But it is a moment when China is growing stronger. China is present everywhere in Europe. They are in Africa. In every country you go to visit, you will find the Chinese – in the hotels, Chinese investments, and Chinese buildings. Is China creating a new profile in the world, stronger than before?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: They certainly are. They have really made a concerted effort to fill space – that for reasons that only they can share with you – that they think is open to them. They certainly moved into spaces that we pulled out of in previous years where we were not members of the Human Rights Council, when we pulled out of WHO. So, they have tried to fill those spaces. They have exerted themselves in New York with an effort to establish their value system within the UN system. But we’re back. We’re back and we are exerting our own leadership. We’re pushing back on their efforts around the world to redefine the world order. And we’re working very, very closely with all of our partners to ensure that the values that are enshrined in the UN Charter are respected by all members.
QUESTION: They’re talking about a new multi-polar world, let’s say, not a world with two or three powers, but different. Even the local powers. Is that true?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I think that’s what they are arguing. And we do see a multi-polar world. We see a United Nations that ought to be reformed. We’ve talked about that recently where the Global South does not have enough representation – for example, in the Security Council. So, we are talking very openly and seriously about Security Council reform and how we can make the Security Council more inclusive, more representative of the voices of the Global South and others who are not represented on the Council.
QUESTION: So other countries want to play different, let’s say, a game like Türkiye, Mexico, South Africa, sometimes Iran, also, in a way. There are countries who want to play out of the United Nations, according to their interests and not international values.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, I think part of it is they actually want to play those roles in the UN, and they want to be part of the broader voice of the United Nations. So, we’re listening to what they have to say. We want to hear more variety of voices come forward in the Security Council. And that’s why President Biden announced during his General Assembly speech that we are supportive of expansion in the Security Council as well.
QUESTION: How are our relations with Iran in the United Nation?
AMBASSADOR HOXHA: Well, frozen.
QUESTION: Frozen, I know –
AMBASSADOR HOXHA: We don’t have relations with the team of Iran anymore. That’s part of how relations evolves when you break diplomatic ties. But we speak about Iran. Any time that we have something to say, and we speak about Iran or when we speak about Syria, we speak about Iran when we speak about human rights, as we did together with Linda [Thomas-Greenfield], we organized the first and unique meeting, we called an Arria-formula meeting – it’s an informal meeting of the Council – on the ongoing protests in Iran, and that’s very important. So, we don’t forget Iran.
QUESTION: But they are threatening Albania, the media says the government – they’re threatening Albania about even attacks by drones or by kind of terrorism.
AMBASSADOR HOXHA: I think they’ve already done more than just threatening because we know the cyberattack and we’re –
QUESTION: We’re talking about the physical attack –
AMBASSADOR HOXHA: And we’re dealing with that. I hope they will never come to that because that’s another scale and that’s a different kind of situation. We should take it very seriously. And we’re talking with partners. We’re talking with, of course, the U.S., but also with European allies and with NATO. And I very much hope that that will never happen. But if it happens, we will know how to respond, not only alone, but with our partners.
QUESTION: How you can help Albania in that way? In the discussion with Iran.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well we have already started in responding to this most recent cyberattack, we identified Iran as being the source of that attack and shared that information immediately with the Government of Albania. Our Special Presidential Adviser and Special Ambassador-at-large for Cyber is here in Albania today working with the government to talk about how we can prepare to deal with the challenges that the Iranians have posed to your cyber system here. And we will continue to have discussions with the government on how we can be more supportive.
QUESTION: They are also supporting, openly supporting, Russia in the war with Ukraine. They are donating to the Russians, drones, and even other weapons.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Yeah, the Foreign Minister actually admitted it. Initially –
QUESTION: Just at the beginning of the war –
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: They denied it initially. And now he says they provided the drones but not the weapons systems. But we know what they’ve done, and we have called them out for what they have done.
QUESTION: And how do you see the role of Türkiye in the Russia and Ukraine war?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Now, Türkiyee is –
QUESTION: President Erdogan is trying to play a role –
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Now, they played an interesting role. Türkiye was instrumental –
QUESTION: What’s an interesting role?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Yeah, well, for example, they were instrumental in helping the Secretary-General close the deal on the Black Sea Grain initiative, and they’ve been supportive of that process throughout. Without the Turkish government, I don’t think that grain deal would have gone through as fast as it did. So, we thank them for that. President Erdogan has also attempted to play a role and in communicating with President Putin that he should move out of Ukraine. He should end this war that is having an impact. So that’s the role that we’ve seen so far. And we appreciate the efforts they’ve made.
QUESTION: Ambassador, what are our relations with Türkiye? You know, in Albania there are a lot of comments about that.
AMBASSADOR HOXHA: Our relations are very good because Türkiye is a strategic partner of Albania.
QUESTION: Except the Bayraktar drones we are taking from Türkiye, which I mean –
AMBASSADOR HOXHA: We’re buying legally. When that will happen, we have very good cooperation in different levels. I mean, I can talk about the cooperation that we have in the UN with the team of Türkiye there on a number of issues. They are an important player. And as Ambassador Greenfield was mentioning, we have to keep channels of discussion open so whatever, whoever can talk to Putin and try to talk to him, to reason, is more than welcome, because that’s part of diplomacy. That’s the essence of diplomacy. We never close doors. We can disagree, profoundly disagree with everything that happens in Ukraine. But I think we should always take every possibility to talk. And Türkiye has been doing that as well and I think is being appreciated by everyone.
QUESTION: Thank you. Ambassador, there is tension at this moment between the Albanians and Serbians in Kosovo, especially in north Kosovo, because the European Union is trying to arrange an agreement between the Albanians and Serbs, but at the moment we have a big tension in the north. What do you think about an agreement between Kosovo and Serbia and also the Kosovo government? It is saying that it is Russia who created this problem through Belgrade.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: For years we have supported moving forward and establishing stability in this region and we will continue to work towards stability. We had this discussion just today with the Albanian government on how we can better communicate on these issues and what additional actions we might take to ensure that stability is established and that this country does not end up – and this region – in conflict again.
QUESTION: What will be the solution to that in that area?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, I think an agreement between both sides is what will be an agreement that they both accept. Well, yeah, it’s what is needed –
QUESTION: Yeah, absolutely, but after 23 years it’s still a problem –
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: It’s still a problem after 23 years. But we haven’t given up and neither should they. They have to continue to work toward peace because there’s no alternative. I don’t think any of us want to see them go back into conflict again.
AMBASSADOR HOXHA: Just one thing – making such agreements between former adversaries and given what has happened in Kosovo, as we know, is not easy. So that’s why it has lasted such a long time. But this time something different is happening and we need to understand it and we need to communicate about that. It is the first time that we have not only one special envoy of the EU, but we have also the special envoy of the United States and the special advisers for foreign policy of the French and the German governments. So, we have really four persons. We have such firepower that has not been before with a concrete proposal on the table. And this is something that must not be wasted by either Kosovo or Serbia. It is a unique momentum to push it extremely.
QUESTION: This conflict is still present after 23 years. It is crazy.
AMBASSADOR HOXHA: I think we can deal with all these technical issues, and they have their importance. Nothing, not the car plates, have that kind of importance in magnitude as trying to really move forward because this is the only way to move forward. There will be no solution in either of the issues if it’s not an agreement. And for agreement, you need two sides.
QUESTION: Two last questions. What have you learned after 10 months in the Security Council?
AMBASSADOR HOXHA: I know they’re there to make conclusions. But what I have learned is that first of all, you take nothing for granted. You go there – you are a small country – to have your voice, but you are one of the 15. So, if you go there with any complex that you are small, you better not be there. You are there like everybody else. We know there are five permanent countries. But as Linda [Thomas-Greenfield] was saying, and I want to highlight we do things together. And when we really get the call from Linda that we need to organize a meeting, can we do it together? That gives us not only importance, but the leverage that we need to really be there and to do our part. So, what I’ve learned is that you have to work hard, you have no vacations, you just have work.
QUESTION: Ambassador, last question. Forty years ago, when you started your diplomatic service, the Soviet Union was the only threat or the biggest threat for Western democracies. After 40 years, again, Russia with a former KGB agent, is a threat to democracy in this world. Are there modern challenges for us?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Of course, there are other challenges. And that’s why it’s so unfortunate that Russia has created this new problem for us. We’re dealing with a pandemic right now that had a huge, huge impact on the world. We’re dealing with climate change. The COP 27 is taking place right now where countries are sitting around the table trying to address the huge, huge challenges that the changes in the climate have imposed on our environment. We have huge issues of population and how we’re dealing with the movements of people. There are hundreds of thousands of refugees in the world right now. So, there are a lot of global challenges that we’re dealing with, including now having to deal with this threat to international peace that Russia has brought to the fore.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, and I hope you will be back in our country for another visit.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you very much.