Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s Interview with Ubade Almansur of Syria TV

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


QUESTION: First of all, I want to welcome you Ambassador to Syria TV. My first question is going to be, have you ever discussed the border – cross-border line aid with the White Helmets, or other authorities, lately?

AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  You know, I have met on several occasions with the White Helmets, including yesterday. I met with Raed in Washington earlier in the year and when I was here last year, I met with them. I am extraordinarily in awe of what they have been able to accomplish, what they do to save lives. I refer to them as superheroes, and they really are. And I know that Syrians who have benefited from the efforts that they make feel the same way.

QUESTION: Ambassador, we are one month away from renewing – or the vote for renewing – the cross-border aid, and we expect Russia to veto it. Have you ever considered alternative ways to get aid inside Syria in case of a veto?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We expected Russia to veto last year and they didn’t. And so, my approach this year is going full bore to get the authorization for this resolution to continue. In the meantime, I am sure that UN agencies and NGOs are looking at contingency plans for what they would do to get food into Syria. But my goal is to get the border authorization continued.

QUESTION: If that happens, is there an alternative plan for what could be happening on the ground?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We will look at alternative plans should that be necessary. But I’m going to continue to work to get the border aid extended. I mean if we start with less work on alternative plans, then we’ve given the Russians a pass. They know we have alternatives, and they don’t have to support the extension. I’m not working on an alternative at this moment, I’m working on getting the extension. I know UN agencies and NGOs need to have a plan B and I know that they probably are working on a plan B, but I’m not working on plan B. I’m working on plan A, and when I need to consult about plan B, I know they have it there.

QUESTION: So, if we could renew the resolution, is there going to be coordination between the regime or opposition held areas? If they are getting aid is it going to monitored by the UN or by the U.S.?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Certainly, by the United Nations. We expect when we provide assistance that it is being monitored. And from the cross-border side we know that there is monitoring of the aid. From cross-line, we’re working with – and the UN agencies are working with – governments to ensure that cross-line aid is able to get to beneficiaries who are within government-controlled areas.

QUESTION: Is there any coordination with the EU and Turkey here or in Bab al-Hawa?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Turkey is an essential partner, in all of this. I met with the Turkish Foreign Minister in New York a week ago when he was there for meetings on food insecurity. I also met with the Deputy Foreign Minister in Brussels when I was there and announced an additional $800 million for Syrian humanitarian assistance, and I’m meeting with local officials here. And I really do commend the Government of Turkey, and the people of Turkey, for being hosts to one of the largest refugee populations in the world. This is clearly not easy, but I saw programs yesterday where refugee children and Turkish children are in classrooms together, engaging with each other. I met with local officials who have engaged with the humanitarian organizations to support their efforts here in Bab al-Hawa.

QUESTION: Is there going to be individuals from the U.S., as far as you know, regarding the aid if Bab al-Hawa was closed?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We’re still going to provide humanitarian assistance regardless. Our $800 million is there; we’re not going to take it off the table if the border crossing is closed. And the border crossing – the authorization for the UN program would end if we don’t do this extension, but the border won’t close. Assistance will still flow through – it will not get the monitoring and the close coordination that it gets through the mandate that we have under the UN resolution.

QUESTION: One last question. As you know, Turkey is talking about voluntary – going back to Syria – of one million refugees. If that happens, it would happen within one year and means 1 million more refugees in Syria. Do you think it will be one more burden regarding everything happening on the ground and regarding the aid, is this going to be a different situation for you?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Refugees make their choices about whether they should flee or not flee. And they also have a choice about when they can return home, and in peace and in security. And so, we discourage any country hosting refugees not to force refugees to return forcibly. To work closely in coordination with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees on an orderly return of refugees in peace and in security. So we have had discussions with the Turkish government and encouraged them to continue to be the great hosts that they have been to refugees and to work with UNHCR, and coordinate with UNHCR about an orderly return to refugees in the event that refugees accept that they can return safely. Most refugees want to go home. It’s not a situation where people want to stay in a foreign country. So, they’re not going to stay if they feel they can return to their homes.

QUESTION: Do you think they can go home now at this time?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I don’t think that that’s my decision to make. I think it’s going to be their decision to make – and should they make that decision – we will support them.

QUESTION: Thank you very much, Ambassador.