U.S. Representative to the United Nations
February 13, 2023
QUESTION: Joining me now is Linda Thomas-Greenfield. Ambassador, welcome. Thank you for all you’re doing. I know you are calling on the UN Security Council to vote immediately to authorize the delivery of UN aid – principally food – but other aid as well to northwest Syria. And, you know, well from having gone to talk to refugees in that corridor. Will Russia now open more humanitarian aid corridors into Syria? Or are they going to veto it?
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, that is the question at hand today, Andrea. And that is that the Security Council needs to act – we need to act urgently to open up the two additional border crossings.
And we have heard from the United Nations – we heard from Martin Griffiths, the humanitarian coordinator; we’ve heard from the Secretary General, that it is important that we open up open up additional crossings. And so the Security Council needs to act. We need to act immediately. There will be a meeting a closed meeting of the Security Council this afternoon. In that meeting it is our hope our plan that we can move action on this now. We called for this as early as last week.
As you noted, we’re a week into this, and every single minute means one more life. You said 35,000 – I heard just before coming in 36,000 have been killed. The numbers are ticking every single day. So we must act now. And it is important that we show the Syrian people that we are there for them – that we’re ready to provide them the assistance that they need. And I’m really working with all of my colleagues in the Security Council, as well as the NGOs and the UN, to make sure that that actually happens.
QUESTION: I know from two years ago and continuously Russian has been difficult to say the least. Now we’re in the middle of a shooting war, proxy war for us, but of course, a horrible war in Ukraine. Does that make it more complicated or can this be on a separate track for you?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: This has to be on a separate track, we’re really dealing with a natural disaster. This is a humanitarian crisis. And we need to move forward on this right now without consideration of what we’re doing elsewhere in the world. Those things are taking place separately, and we need to move forward on this. And so the Security Council, as I said, will be meeting this afternoon. I called yesterday for urgent action by the Security Council. And it is my hope and expectation that that call will be responded to.
QUESTION: When the earthquake first struck, Secretary Blinken said that there have been no contacts between the U.S. and the Assad regime has that changed?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We have people on the ground as you know, USAID sent a DART team into the region. We’re engaging with people on the ground, we’re engaging with NGOs on the ground, including Syrian NGOs, we’ve made clear publicly to the Assad regime that we are not blocking any assistance that is available to people in Syria. This is humanitarian – this is not political –and we need to respond to the humanitarian needs across the board, including in Syria.
QUESTION: I want to turn to Ukraine for a moment because there was a horrible Russian bombardment of Ukraine over the weekend. Is this an indication that that Vladimir Putin is escalating the so-called Spring Offensive? Is really a Winter Offensive now already?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: He has never stopped escalating since the day this started. And it’s in his hands to stop this war. We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of Russia’s unprovoked war on Ukraine. And so we intend to amplify our condemnation and our call for the Russians to pull their troops out of Ukraine.
What they are doing in terms of attacking civilian infrastructure, attacking schools – these are unconscionable in the world, and they need to be condemned for it. They are war crimes.
And Putin continues to do that because he didn’t calculate the resolve of the Ukrainian people to defend themselves and we are resolved to continue to provide them everything they need to defend themselves until it’s over.
QUESTION: I know you’re not involved in analyzing the China spy balloon and all of that, but I just want to ask you about the diplomatic context. Have you been able to speak to your Chinese counterpart in the Security Council since the shootdown? Are there any contacts at your level?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I don’t want to discuss our discussions with the Chinese on this, but this is a bilateral issue, and we’re addressing it bilaterally.
QUESTION: And there are new reports that there will be contact, potentially, between the Secretary in Munich at the security conference where he’s going this week, with Wang Yi, the highest-level diplomat over there. Would that be helpful?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, certainly the Secretary was almost on his way to Russia to have a – sorry to China – to have discussions with the Chinese when this balloon incident occurred. And we certainly have to continue to engage with the Chinese but what we want is for the Chinese to be honest about what they are doing and to cease what they’re doing.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield who is doing so much around the world, but right now most urgently in Turkey and Syria along that border area where the earthquake is so catastrophic. Thank you, Ma’am.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD Thank you so much, Andrea. And thank you for reporting on this.