Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
July 9, 2021
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Hi everybody. Good afternoon. Let me just start by saying thank you for being here on this day. Thanks to this resolution that we voted unanimously on today, millions of Syrians can breathe a small sigh of relief, knowing that vital humanitarian aid will continue to flow into Idlib through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing for another year. Parents can sleep at night knowing that their children will be fed on July 12. The humanitarian agreement we’ve reached here will literally save lives.
When I visited the Turkish-Syria border last month, I saw the deep suffering of the Syrian people first-hand. I came away from that visit committed to ensuring that we kept that border crossing open. There are bright rays of hope here with the Bab al-Hawa border crossing. Through that crossing, every single month, 1,000 trucks cross the border with food, clean water, vaccines, and medicines. And now, thanks to today’s critical humanitarian agreement, they will be able to keep that vital lifeline flowing.
This humanitarian agreement was possible thanks to the strong leadership of the co-penholders, Ireland and Norway. It is possible thanks to all of my colleagues who were able to align on this vitally important outcome. And it was possible, above all, because the United States and Russia were able to come together, work diplomatically, and forge an agreement that would meet the humanitarian needs of the Syrian people.
Of course, we need to do more. We urged the Security Council to go even further and expand the humanitarian access that is so desperately needed. The United States will continue to call on this Council to more fully meet the needs of the Syrian people. There is a lot we can do together in the coming months to meet these critical humanitarian needs. And that is why this humanitarian initiative is so critical.
This is an important moment. For people in Syria; for our ability to combat the global pandemic; and for the Security Council, UN agencies, NGOs and the many courageous, courageous Syrians who have made their voices heard.
Together, we’ve shown we can deliver for people in need. And I hope in so doing, we have paved the way for tackling other complex challenges in the days and weeks and months to come.
I’ll take a couple of questions.
QUESTION: Madam Ambassador, congratulations on sponsoring such a resolution and succeeding in passing it with 15 votes. My question really is – as we understand it now because we haven’t read the resolution carefully – there will be six months of extension, there will be extensive and substantive report from the Secretary-General, and then there will be another automatic – without a vote – extension of another six months?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Exactly, 12 months.
QUESTION: Thank you so much. Twelve months, but does the Secretary-General’s report plays – if the Russians find problems with the Secretary-General’s report about distribution, about quantities, about where it’s being distributed – if they find and raise problems after six months, will still a resolution be automatically renewed?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We see this resolution as being automatically renewed following the Secretary-General’s report. No vote will be required. And we will work – the Council will work with the Secretary-General’s office to ensure that, once he puts his report on the table, that it will be accepted by all Council members.
QUESTION: Thanks, Ambassador. Michelle Nichols from Reuters.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Hi, Michelle.
QUESTION: President Biden made clear to President Putin how important the renewal of this operation was. The Russian ambassador described it as a historical moment. He just said to us this is possibly a turning point in U.S.-Russian relations. How would you describe it?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I certainly see it as an important moment in our relationship. And it shows that what we can do with the Russians if we work with them diplomatically on common goals. And this was a common goal that we were able to come to an agreement on. And I look forward to looking for other opportunities to work with the Russians on issues of common interest to our two governments.
QUESTION: James Bays, Al Jazeera. You got the compromise, you’re presenting it as a success, but you originally wanted three border crossings. You’ve only got one.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We got 12 months of a lifeline to the Syrian people. Certainly, we would have wanted to have three border crossings. And I made that clear in my statement that we wanted more, but we certainly didn’t want less. And this is a success.