Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
May 31, 2022
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: It’s really an honor to be with you at the conclusion of the United States presidency of the Security Council to reflect back on the past month.
I’ll start with a few reflections on my presidency at the Council. For the second time in a row, the United States presidency has shined a light – a spotlight on the link between armed conflict and food insecurity. The signature event we convened on the 19th of May came at a moment when the world is experiencing a dire hunger crisis. I want to thank Secretary Blinken and the ministers and other officials from around the world who came to participate in that meeting.
The Security Council also addressed an urgent issue that hasn’t drawn enough focus to date, and that’s the role of the use of digital technologies in maintaining international peace and security.
We also conducted the important monthly work of the Security Council, adopted the yearly report of the work of the Security Council for the General Assembly, and we adopted resolutions and made statements which responded to world events in real time. Regarding the situation in Afghanistan, for example, we convened the consultation and subsequently issued a unanimous statement calling on the Taliban to swiftly reverse the policies and practices restricting the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Afghan women and girls and to adhere to their commitment to reopen schools for all female students without further delay. The Council was also able to express strong support for the Secretary-General’s efforts in search of a peaceful solution to the war in Ukraine in a presidential Statement.
We were pleased to see the Council adopt a resolution renewing South Sudan sanctions, and we also led an effort renewing UNAMI’s mandate with full Council consensus. UNAMI’s new mandate provides strengthened language on climate change, authorizing UNAMI to assist with addressing the adverse effects of climate change in Iraq, in particular desertification and drought.
Throughout the month, we made a point of ensuring that the women, peace, and security agenda was fully integrated in our work, including country-specific discussions. And we showed our commitment to this through our actions, making sure civil society briefers, particularly women civil society briefers, were included in every relevant meeting and able to participate.
In my national capacity, I want to add that our focus on food security give the past month – during the past month came at a particularly crucial time. Russia’s war on Ukraine had made worse a global crisis spiraling across the globe. And I was extraordinarily proud that the UN and the Security Council were a central venue for addressing this issue.
As you know, the United States led a week of action on global food insecurity during the week of the Security Council’s open debate. On the eve of that meeting, the United States hosted a “Global Food Security Call to Action” ministerial meeting with officials from 40 regionally diverse countries. There, Secretary Blinken announced an additional $215 million in emergency food assistance, and we issued a Roadmap for Global Food Security Call to Action. Over 80 countries have now aligned with that roadmap.
The roadmap calls for UN Member States to provide additional humanitarian funding and in-kind donations of food from national stockpiles, keep food and agricultural markets open, increase fertilizer production, support sustainable food systems, and monitor and share data on global food market developments. We have invited all Member States to sign onto this roadmap and look forward to continuing to convene discussions on this urgent global crisis in the coming months.
And a word on the digital technologies: this marked the beginning, not the end, of this important conversation. As our three briefers made clear, digital technologies are already reshaping international peace and security, and all of us must do our part to ensure these technologies serve as a force for positive change, and not a tool misused to perpetrate human rights abuses, fuel hatred, and exacerbate conflict.
To effectively maintain peace and security in the 21st century, we need to respond to 21st century threats and deploy 21st century tools. And we are committed to doing exactly that in the months and years to come.
I want to note that Russia’s ongoing, unprovoked, unjustified war against Ukraine was a focus of many meetings across the month – because it is not only affecting Ukraine, but fueling and contributing to broader threats to global peace and security, like food insecurity, abuses of technology, and the protection of civilians.
Separately, we held an important vote last week, where the United States introduced a resolution to hold the DPRK accountable for its continued, unlawful ballistic missile launches that violate multiple, multiple Security Council resolutions.
And as you saw and we were not surprised to see, China and Russia both chose to veto that resolution. This was an unthinkable abdication of their responsibilities to the Council and to protecting international peace and security. What is important is that 13 Council Members supported the resolution. As per the recent resolution passed by consensus in the General Assembly, now they will have to explain their dangerous choice to the General Assembly.
Finally, I emphasized at the beginning of this month that we intended to keep the spotlight on the situation in Syria, with three meetings this month. I also traveled to Brussels in early May to announce over $800 million in U.S. humanitarian funding to the Syrian people, and I soon will travel to Turkey for briefings and meetings with humanitarian partners and UN officials in the region.
We must – and I say that again – we must renew and expand the mandate that allows vital food, clean water, vaccines, and medicines to flow to millions upon millions of people in Syria ahead of July 10th.
Before I close, I particularly want to thank everyone who joined us to honor Madeleine Albright in the General Assembly – including the Secretary-General, the President of the General Assembly, former Secretary Hillary Clinton, Alice Albright and her grandsons, and many others who paid tribute to her memory. It meant a lot to me in particular to hear from her former students, and it was so powerful to hear from everyone in the General Assembly who joined the legendary Judy Collins as she sang “Amazing Grace.”
This was a busy and productive month in the Council – and I’m looking forward to passing the baton over to my Albanian colleague tomorrow. And I want to thank all of you. And with that, I look forward to taking a few questions from you.
MS. OLIVIA DALTON: Thank you, Ambassador. We’re going to start over here with Valeria Robecco.
QUESTION: Thank you, Ambassador, on behalf of UNCA for doing this. Valeria Robecco from ANSA News Agency. So my question is on Ukraine, if you had the opportunity to see the peace plan proposed by Italian Foreign Minister Di Maio, and what’s your reaction, and if you had the chance to talk about it here at the UN with Italy? Thank you so much.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you for that question. And I have not seen the exact peace plan, but I am aware of the peace plan. And I will say that we support all efforts made by everyone to find a peaceful solution for the Ukrainian people that is acceptable to the Ukrainian people, and the Italian initiative is one of those initiatives that we certainly would love to see bring a conclusion to this horrific war and the horrific attacks on the Ukrainian people.
MS. DALTON: Francesco.
QUESTION: Yes. Thank you, Madam Ambassador. My question is on Russian oil. Russia is finding more buyers across Asia to offset the Western sanctions. Do you think that we need, like, stronger secondary sanctions on Russian oil in order to stop this?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, we have strong sanctions on Russian oil already, and countries considering purchasing Russian oil, particularly given the decision that’s been made by the Europeans that they will now work to decrease the amount of dependence on Russian oil – these countries are breaking – they’re breaking these sanctions. And if they break these sanctions, they certainly will be held accountable for that. We’re hoping that they join all of us in making sure that Russia does not use them to break sanctions that we have put in place to encourage Russia to – and urge Russia to – stop this horrific war against the Ukrainian people.
MS. DALTON: Talal.
QUESTION: Thank you, Olivia. Thank you, Ambassador. The topic I would like to – my name is Talal Al-Haj from Al-Arabiya/Al-Hadath. The topic I’d like to raise with you is Yemen. We saw Saturday the talks in Amman breaking without an agreement between the Houthis, the rebel Houthis and the legitimate Government of Yemen. And Secretary Blinken has called, or there was a phone call between him and the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, where they discussed many topics; among them was Yemen and the question of extending the truce that is expiring on the 2nd of this – of June, to a longer truce to allow for a lot of things to happen, humanitarian and otherwise and political, and also the question of the tanker Safer.
On the truce, one of the conditions of the truce from the beginning, as you know, was the lifting of the siege on Taiz, opening the roads, which has never happened even though the Special Envoy Grundberg has offered a gradual opening of the roads to Taiz, which the Houthis also declined, while the Houthis got all they wanted – opened Sana’a airport, oil supplies through Hodeidah, et cetera, et cetera. How do you see this moving on and extending if people do not comply with the conditions of the truce?
And secondly, on Safer, we understand it’s a threat, and the State Department issued on Friday a statement warning about this, that this oil spill would be twice the size of the Exxon Valdez in 1989. They say they are short 80 million. Is the international community unable to pay, to raise $80 million to save the region from – with millions of life and millions of livelihoods and environmental, thousands of miles on the Red Sea, especially in the north, from destruction for $80 million?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, first on the truce, we were very encouraged early on by the efforts to move the truce forward, to come up with some confidence‑building measures that would allow for humanitarian assistance to move to the people of Yemen. And so the fact that these talks seem to have come not – they haven’t ended yet but seemed to be a bit in trouble is troublesome to us. We encourage the parties on both sides to continue those efforts and find a peaceful way to provide needed humanitarian assistance to the people of Yemen.
On the Safer, we have been a strong, strong supporter to finding a solution to the Safer. We know what the consequences are. We know the danger that is there. And we have encouraged others to contribute funding to this – to this effort. But let’s be clear. The problem with the Safer is the Houthis who have not allowed even the UN or others to have access to this. And we have to keep the pressure on them because we can get all the money in the world, and if they don’t allow access, then we’re still in the same place that we started. So it’s going to be a two‑prong effort to get this done.
MS. DALTON: Paolo, did you have something? Did you have something?
QUESTION: Thank you for the briefing. Paolo Mastrolilli with the Italian daily La Repubblica. I don’t know if you could clarify the position of the administration concerning the weapons to Ukraine after the declaration that President Biden said yesterday about the long‑range missiles.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Okay. I’m not sure I heard.
QUESTION: Take your mask off.
MS. DALTON: Could you speak a little bit louder?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Okay.
QUESTION: If you could clarify the position of the administration concerning the weapon provided to Ukraine after the declaration that President Biden stated yesterday.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, it’s very, very simple. We have been clear from day one that we will provide Ukraine with weapons to defend itself from Russian aggression, to defend itself inside its borders to fight against Russia. We are not providing any weapons that will allow the Ukrainians to attack Russia from inside of Ukraine, and President Biden has been very clear on that, that we’re not – we’re not going to become a party to the war, but we will support Ukraine’s efforts to defend its own sovereignty and territorial integrity.
MS. DALTON: Go to the right side. Pam?
QUESTION: Thanks so much. Thank you, Olivia. Thank you, Ambassador, for the whole month, and thank you for this briefing. It’s Pamela Falk from CBS News. My question is about the demining of the Black Sea ports. There has been a package proposal. There have been all sorts of back-and-forth, many countries. What’s – if you could speak in your national capacity, what’s the U.S. position on what it would take to get that kind of a ceasefire and a demining of the port? Thank you.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, first and foremost, it’s going to take – it’s going to take agreements from all sides. That means the Russians will agree to stop attacking Ukraine. It means the Ukrainians will agree to have those mines removed. We are supportive of all efforts that will allow for Ukrainian wheat to get out into the open market. There are 84 Ukrainian ships that have been blocked in the Black Sea. There are other ships that are waiting to get in to get access to Ukrainian grain to get out. I’m told that there is about 25 million tons of grain that is available to be transported and provided to humanitarian programs as well as to those who are dependent on Ukrainian wheat.
So all of the efforts that are being led by the Secretary-General and others to figure out how to provide for humanitarian quarters, how to provide for the removal of mines and how to move forward on a ceasefire that would allow this essential food to get out to people in need is going to be a gargantuan effort, but it’s one that we support.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. DALTON: Maggie?
MS. DALTON: Oh, I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Thank you. Kristen Saloomey from Al Jazeera English. Thanks for the briefing. I’m wondering if you could comment on the timing of the vote on the DPRK given some allies were considering or in favor of maybe postponing. Given Secretary Blinken’s remarks on those days, can you talk about what was in – behind the U.S. decision to go forward with that resolution?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That resolution has been out for discussion and consideration for over nine weeks. And over nine weeks, the DPRK continued to test weapons of – that clearly break Security Council resolutions. So we spent nine weeks negotiating with our allies, negotiating with China to do what the Security Council is responsible for, and that is hold the DPRK accountable for breaking numerous Security Council resolutions.
And while there was some discussion of a PRST, the Chinese never put a PRST on the table, and we attempted previously when the DPRK did tests – we attempted to get simple press statements and PRSTs, and we were never able to get those. And the silence of the Council, we believe, continued to encourage the DPRK to test the will of the Council. So they heard very loudly and clearly that 13 members of the Council stand strong in condemning what they are doing, and they are being protected by both the Russian and the Chinese veto. But now they know that – that the Russians and the Chinese are not being supported by other members of the Council.
MS. DALTON: Okay. And last one for Michelle.
QUESTION: Thanks, Ambassador. A quick follow-up on North Korea. If there is a nuclear test, as you’ve warned that there could be, will you try again for more sanctions?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We absolutely will. First of all, we need to enforce the sanctions that we have already authority to enforce. And we certainly, as we attempted in this last resolution, will push for additional sanctions.
QUESTION: And then just on Russia-Ukraine, the UN said Rebeca Grynspan is in D.C. today for talks with the administration about Russian exports of grain and fertilizer. The Russians themselves have said, as you have, that there is no direct sanctions. But it’s the chilling effects that they say are hindering their exports. What can the U.S. do to help facilitate that?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Yeah, we – as I noted early, we are very supportive of those efforts. And the decision to send Rebeca Grynspan to both Russia and now in the U.S. is one that we hope will lead to some encouragement of companies who are holding back on shipping of Russian grain and fertilizer. As you noted, these are not being sanctioned. But companies are a little nervous. And we are prepared to give them comfort letters if that will help to encourage them, as well as insurance companies to support those efforts to get grain out of Russia that again is very needed by the international community. But I will say Russia is able to get its oil out, and that’s sanctioned. They should be able to get their grain out that’s not sanctioned.
MS. DALTON: Thanks, everybody.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you.