Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s Interview with Nahed Youssef of Al Arabiya

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
Hatay, Turkey
June 2, 2022


QUESTION: Welcome Ambassador to Al Arabiya. First, I want to ask you briefly how much aid was delivered this year, across the line and across borders?

AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  You know, I can’t tell you in terms of a dollar figure or an amount, but cross line we were successful in getting four convoys across the line inside of Syria, but cross border we were able to get about – thousands of trucks monthly that reached millions of people. The two efforts complement each other but cross border reaches millions of people every single month, and cross line, the last convoy reached about 40,000.

QUESTION: And with respect to the Security Council negotiation, do you think they can renew the mandate of the crossborder aid mechanism, and it will succeed? And on what basis are you going to pressure to renew it?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  We have no choice but to succeed. Millions of people are dependent upon this aid. And we will be working within the council to convince our members that it’s important to extend this resolution for another year. I think most council members, in fact the majority of council members understand that. The party that we will have to work with are the Russians and I think they will understand, as well the importance of continuing to provide this necessary assistance to the Syrian people.

QUESTION: And if the Russians use the veto?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  I’m not even going to think about the Russians using a veto – a veto of this resolution means that millions of people will lose access to the food and water and health care that they are dependent upon. And so, my hope is to convince my Russian colleagues that they not use their veto in this real humanitarian effort.

QUESTION: Are there any alternatives?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  We’re looking at alternatives, but the alternatives are much more difficult. And the alternatives mean that millions of people will not get access to what they need.

QUESTION: With the discussions today with a Turkish official, would you discuss the military operation the Turkish officials announced about before?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  I’m here at the border crossing to deal with the humanitarian situation. But as you know, the U.S. government has engaged with the Turkish Government on this issue, and we’ve made clear that we should not – the Turkish government should not – take any action that would further destabilize the region that would lead to additional displacements of people in Syria. They’ve suffered long enough, and we want to see peace in this region and we should not engage in anything and the Turks should not engage in any effort that would hamper those efforts toward finding a peaceful solution for the Syrian people.

QUESTION: Observers say that Biden administration, there is a retreat by the U.S. administration in dealing with the Syrian file, as if the administration has surrendered to the fact that Assad remains in power. And there’s also an American acceptance of Iran’s controlling of Syria, which guarantees the arrival of weapons and money to Hezbollah. How would you deal with that?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  I think that is the farthest from the truth as you can get. We are consistently and have regularly engaged on the Syria issue. We have continued to impose sanctions on Assad. We’re continuing to support the Syrian people. Just two weeks ago, I was in Brussels and announced an additional $800 million in humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people. We have not given up on the Syrian people.

QUESTION: And what about Hezbollah because they also are making the threats related to Syrian refugees?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  And we are responding to those threats, and we will continue to respond to those threats here as well as elsewhere Hezbollah has made threats to peace and security.

QUESTION: More sanctions?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s one possibility. There are other possibilities as well, but we won’t get into those but certainly we’re not going to step aside and allow Hezbollah to disrupt people’s security.

QUESTION: With respect to the hosting countries, not only Turkey, there is like Lebanon or Jordan. What would you do for the funding those countries that are not able to anymore? If we talk about Lebanon, for example, it’s going through a huge economic crisis and it’s affecting the refugees as well as the Lebanese. Are there going to be any funding plans for the future so they can still take care or help the refugees?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  Well, the $800 billion that I announced in Brussels covers Syrian refugees wherever they are. I visited Jordan last year and met with Syrian refugees there. I meet regularly with my Lebanese counterpart, so we are engaged on the situation in Lebanon as well.

QUESTION: Are you going to visit Lebanon for this issue?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  That certainly can be part of the plan. I’ve been in this job for a year, and I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t visit Lebanon in the future.

QUESTION? Do you think there are any safe areas for the refugees to go back to Syria?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Refugees have to determine for themselves where they feel safe, and we will not support any efforts to force refugees to go back to areas where they do not feel safe. It’s a decision that they themselves have to make. If they make the decision that they can go back, we’re prepared to support them.

QUESTION: But you don’t think there are safe areas now?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I think again, there are areas that are less insecure than others, but individuals have to decide that. It’s an individual decision. It’s not a decision that governments can make.

QUESTION: Ambassador, thank you so much for this interview.