Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s Interview with Talal Al-Haj of Al Arabiya’s “Diplomatic Avenue”

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
August 25, 2023


QUESTION: Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the United States’ Permanent Representative to the United Nations, welcome to Al Arabiya.

AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you. I’m happy to be back here with you.

QUESTION: We are so happy to have you. You are the President and you have, so far, a very successful presidency of the Security Council. Would you care to share with us, and our viewers, the high points – and the low points – of your presidency until this moment?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, thank you, for giving me the opportunity. Being president of the Security Council is a huge, huge responsibility. Because you get to set the agenda. And our agenda for the Council was to focus in on two core priorities of the U.S. government.

One, looking at food insecurity, looking at famine, and the impact of conflict on hunger. And so, our first signature event chaired by Secretary Blinken – who sat in the presidency chair – was an event on food insecurity and conflict induced hunger. And we were delighted during that event to get 91 countries to sign on as signatories to a communiqué condemning food being used as a weapon of war. So we really focused in on that issue. We announced over $360 million to support 11 countries who are affected by hunger.

Second, we really drilled in on human rights. And we had a signature event on the 17th – first since 2017 – focused on human rights in DPRK. And we got consensus to hold that important meeting.

QUESTION: Talking about the food security, President Putin has announced over the last few days that they are willing to go back to the Black Sea Initiative if there is full implementation of the agreement. Your thoughts on his offer?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, first, my thoughts are: They should never have pulled out of the agreement. My second thought is: We should never have needed an agreement. They are responsible for putting the world in this situation of food insecurity – requiring the need for the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

My response to his announcement is: Actions speak louder than words. We need to see what he does, not what he says. He has an opportunity to go back into this agreement, begin to allow food to get out to the world market to those places where it’s most needed.

QUESTION: Yesterday was the Independence Day of the Ukraine. I would like you to saying something on that. And the second one: On Wednesday, we witnessed a demise of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner Group. I wonder what the diplomats around the UN say about that.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, to your first question, we chaired a meeting in the Security Council yesterday, focused on the horrific actions of Russia deporting children from Ukraine. Many of them losing their citizenship, being forced to take Russian passports. And as I said there, these are the world’s children. And no parent – no grandparent – want to go through that experience. So, it was really heart wrenching, emotional moment for us in the Security Council. As we celebrated Ukrainian independence, we also highlighted that Ukraine continues to fight for their sovereignty and independence.

You know, I don’t really have much to say on Prigozhin. I think people – there were a lot of smirks and comments behind the scenes. We’re not surprised. And I would refer you to the Russian Mission to see what they are hearing from the rest of us.

QUESTION: The Niger. ECOWAS has a force standing by to intervene militarily to restore the constitutional rule in the Niger. And it seems like from all – what we are witnessing – that the drums of war is beating louder and louder because the junta are frustrating any efforts for dialogue. Are we heading to war? And if there is a way out, is it in the foreseeable future?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: It really is in my heart. I’ve worked on Africa almost my entire career. And what is happening in Niger is so terrible. We condemn this military attempt. They have worked to try to overthrow a democratically elected government. The Niger people deserve better than this. The military is not listening to the people.

We strongly support ECOWAS efforts to find a diplomatic solution, to find a way forward, and to push this junta to some kind of discussions on how they can step back and allow for the democratic institutions – the democratic processes – to continue. It sends a very, very dark message across the continent of Africa – and particularly in West Africa – to see this –

QUESTION: They still hope for a peaceful outcome?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I never give up hope. If you give up hope, you give up on diplomacy. So we have to continue to find a path, and try to resume Niger’s democratic process.

QUESTION: The Sudan. The Security Council, the most powerful body – arguably – around the world, entrusted with peace and security in the world, is standing by in the case of Sudan, so far. And the Sudan situation is way, way worse than the situation in the Niger. Thousands of people are being killed in Darfur, in Khartoum, and Kordofan. Isn’t it time that the Security Council take action to find a way out for the people of Sudan?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We are taking action. And during our presidency, we called for an open meeting on Sudan to discuss the situation on the ground there. And I will tell you that there were Member States – and I don’t need to name them – who resisted this call for an open meeting. The Sudanese Mission here pushed back on an open meeting. But we were able to have this open meeting. And we will continue to focus on the situation in Sudan. As you just said, the situation is even more dire.

And what I have to say to you, and to the press broadly, you need to focus more attention on it. One of the briefers said to us – and it caught me off guard – she said the world is not even paying attention to what is happening in Sudan. The international press is not even reporting on it. So I’m happy you asked the question. Your audience will hear this. But I do think it’s important that the press focus attention –

QUESTION: But can I be honest – honest with you, Ambassador. My people in the region, they don’t want Council meetings anymore. They don’t want briefings. They don’t want speeches. They want something to get them out of this disastrous situation.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: And we want to give them something. They know that we have not forgotten them when we have these open briefings. Because without the open briefings, nobody knows what’s going on. And so the briefings are one step – just one – to show the world that we are not ignoring the situation. More needs to be done to end the fighting. The negotiations need to resume. The warring parties need to be held accountable. And we’re calling for that accountability – either through the Security Council or through bilateral measures. And we are prepared to do that.

QUESTION: Time is catching up with us, and I’ve got my signal. But one question on Syria. I’d like your thoughts and your evaluation of the mechanism suggested by the Government of Syria to the UN and the agreement concluded on the 13th of July for six months. How is it working? And where do we go from here?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, we appreciate the efforts that the UN is making to find a path with the Syrian government to continue to provide needed humanitarian assistance to the people of Syria. It is not fully working. What we heard in our most recent briefing is that trucks are not crossing through Bab al-Hawa and not enough humanitarian assistance is getting through.

We think we need the UN mechanism. The UN mechanism that was provided in the resolution allows for a transparent process that I know the Syrian government was comfortable with because it guaranteed that what was getting through was humanitarian assistance and nothing else. And we still believe that this resolution – this UN mandate – is needed.

QUESTION: Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations and the President of the Security Council for this month, we thank you for your time. And we thank you for your insight. Thank you so much.