Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
June 2, 2022
QUESTION: Ambassador, thank you so much for joining us. Your Security Council presidency in May focused on highlighting the plight of the Syrians. So, what is the current state of the U.S. role in Syria?
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, let me first and foremost say that the U.S. is the largest donor for humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people. Just two weeks ago, I was in Brussels, and I announced an additional $800 million in humanitarian assistance for the Syrian people. We’re engaged very actively in supporting the political process, which has been stalled for quite some time. But there are meetings taking place right now in Geneva, in which we are participating. And we are engaged on Syria, as you know, on a regular basis in the Security Council – we held three meetings on Syria during the past month.
QUESTION: This is your second visit to Turkey. Do you feel like since last year, there’s been more cross-border aid or less?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, I think what we have seen over the past year is the needs have increased. The desperation of the Syrian people has also increased, as they worry about whether this cross-border mechanism will be continued, if the resolution will be reauthorized. So, our goal is to make sure that that happens and to ease some of their frustration and some of their fears.
QUESTION: I mean, there are serious concerns that Russia will vote against keeping the Bab al-Hawa cross-border open. And last year, it took President Biden to speak to President Putin to take it over the line. So, to what extent are you willing to go this year to make this happen?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We’re willing to make every effort for it to happen. Russia knows that this is in their interest, as well. It’s in the Assad regime’s interest not to have a million plus people starve to death inside the border of Syria. So, we will be working with other Security Council members, the two pen holders – Norway and Ireland, as well as others, to support extension of the resolution.
QUESTION: Are you worried that they might use Ukraine as a bargaining coordination chip?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: They’re not parallel – its not a bargaining chip for letting people starve to death. So, we’re not equating the two. They are two separate situations. There are desperate situations on both sides, but they’re not situations that should be used as bargaining chips for one or the other side.
QUESTION: Have you been in direct talks between yourself and your Russian counterparts and other Security Council members on this issue?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I certainly have met with other Security Council members on this issue. After this trip, I will go back to New York and engage with all of my counterparts in the Security Council.
QUESTION: Another issue is President Erdogan announced a military operation in northern Syria targeting U.S.-backed Kurdish forces. And he’s also planning to send back one million refugees to the safe zones that are under Turkey’s control in Syria. What’s your view on that?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Refugees have to make their own decisions about returning to their country, they can’t be forced. Under the Geneva Convention, they are under the protection of UNHCR, and we discourage any country from pushing refugees back across borders where they themselves do not feel safe. We can’t make that determination for them, and Turkey can’t make that determination for them. As for the announced intentions of the Turkish government to carry out a military action, we’ve been very clear that we oppose that. We oppose any actions that would further destabilize this region, and certainly, any action that would lead to more displacements, and possibly more refugees.
QUESTION: He is also accusing U.S. of sending weapons to terrorist organizations there.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We’ve been clear about our position on that.
QUESTION: Thank you, Ambassador.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you.