NEW YORK FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, 799 UNITED NATIONS PLAZA, 10TH FLOOR
MODERATOR: Good afternoon and welcome to today’s New York Foreign Press Center briefing. Thank you for joining us, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield. My name is Daphne Stavropoulos and I am today’s moderator. It’s my pleasure to introduce Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, representative of the United States to the United Nations. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield will provide a readout of the 2021 Peacekeeping Ministerial hosted this week by the Republic of Korea. This briefing is on the record.
Following the ambassador’s opening remarks, I will open the floor to questions. If you have a question, go to the participant field and raise your virtual hand and wait for me to call on you. When called on, please enable both your audio and your video, identify yourself and your outlet.
And with that, it’s my pleasure to turn it over today to Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield. Thank you so much for joining us, ma’am.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Good. Thank you very much. And good afternoon, everyone. I was proud to lead the virtual U.S. delegation to this year’s 2021 UN Peacekeeping Ministerial hosted by the Republic of Korea. And while I know all of us were looking forward to seeing each other in person in Seoul, the Omicron variant had other plans. So still, we are so grateful to the Republic of Korea for hosting this ministerial virtually.
The United States and the Republic of Korea have an ironclad alliance built on mutual trust and shared economic and democratic values. Right now, we’re working together with the Republic of Korea to defend democracy, promote human rights, combat COVID-19 and climate crisis, and secure the technologies of the future. I know our alliance will continue to be a linchpin of peace, security, and prosperity in the region for many years to come.
The United States helped launch the very first iteration of this high-level gathering in 2014, when then Vice President Biden co-hosted the first UN Peacekeeping Summit, followed by the Leaders’ Summit on UN Peacekeeping hosted by President Obama in 2015. We provided this early and high-level investment because the United States is a steadfast supporter and a believer in UN peacekeeping. That is why we are the largest financial contributor to UN peacekeeping and the largest provider of peacekeeping capacity-building support in the world.
UN peacekeepers serve a vitally important role in maintaining international peace and security. During my travels, I have seen firsthand the important work of UN peacekeeping operations. And more importantly, I have seen the obstacles they face, most recently when I met with UNIFIL leadership in Israel and when I met with MINUSMA leadership in Mali. The brave women and men serving as UN peacekeepers deserve our utmost gratitude and our respect, as do the troop and police-contributing countries they come from.
Yesterday’s horrific news of Togolese peacekeepers being killed and injured in Mali due to an IED explosion put the ever-present danger of our peacekeepers – our peace – the ever-present danger our peacekeepers face day-in and day-out in stark relief. We mourn their losses and we honor their ultimate sacrifice.
It is my belief that peacekeepers are capable of doing even more to serve local communities, especially when we empower them. And that was what this ministerial was all about. At this ministerial, the United States made 12 concrete pledges to advance peacekeeping. Our pledges are focused on addressing persistent capability gaps, including gaps in aviation, peacekeeping intelligence, and medical units. We are also tailoring our training assistance and other types of support to help bring more women into peacekeeping. We’re investing heavily in long-term capacity-building partnerships because we know that better trained, better equipped, and more capable troops and police are better at protecting themselves and the people they serve.
Ultimately, peacekeeping is about the needs of communities affected by conflict. Their interests and their security have to be our top concerns. That was the idea behind all of our 12 pledges, and I am confident that as we deliver on our pledges – and so do our many partner member-states – UN peacekeepers will be empowered to do even more to help and to protect the communities they serve.
Thank you. And with that, I am looking forward to your questions.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much for those opening remarks. Let’s go to Simon. Simon, please enable your video and introduce yourself and your outlet. Thank you.
QUESTION: Yes. Thank you for doing this, Ambassador. My name is Simon Ateba with Today News Africa in Washington, D.C. I would like to ask you —
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Oops, he cut off.
MODERATOR: Simon, are you there? We can come back to you, or you’re welcome to type your question in the chat.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) and I’m just wondering if —
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Simon, I didn’t hear your question. You cut off.
QUESTION: Oh. Oh, okay. Can you hear me now?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I can.
MODERATOR: We can.
QUESTION: Yes. So I was asking you about Ethiopia, the peacekeeping and peace-building in Ethiopia. You’ve done virtually everything that you wanted, you had to do. You’ve called for peace. You’ve sent Special Envoy Jeffrey Feltman; you’ve relied on the AU Special Envoy Olusegun Obasanjo. But nothing seems to work so far. People continue to die. And so I’m just wondering if there is any other tactics that you need to adopt or if there’s anything that the U.S. can do to still bring about peace and security in Ethiopia. Thank you.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Simon, thank you so much for that question, and I can say categorically that the United States is putting every effort into seeking a negotiated resolution to the conflict in Ethiopia. We do see this conflict as threatening peace and security in the entire Horn of Africa, and we do not believe that there is a military solution to the conflict there. Our goal is to support diplomacy as the first, the last, and the only option that will encourage all sides to cease the hostilities.
The United States and Ethiopia have had a very long and strong partnership between our governments and our people, and we support the unity and the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ethiopia. We want to see the killings stop. That is the reason we’re working closely with regional partners. We’re working with former President Obasanjo and the AU. We’re working with other partners in the region who are engaging with the Ethiopian authorities to get them to agree to a ceasefire and a way forward that will provide safety and security for all Ethiopians. And we will not cease in our diplomatic efforts both bilaterally, as well as here in New York multilaterally, to push for a ceasefire and to push for peace in the entire country of Ethiopia.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much. The next question will go to Daphne. Daphne, please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi. Thank you so much, Ambassador. I appreciate you doing this.
Seven UN peacekeepers were killed in Mali this week in an explosion, the latest peacekeeping mission fatalities in the country. Given that, were you satisfied by the commitments from member states to help peacekeepers operate safely during the ministerial, and is there more you would like to see member states do? Thank you.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Absolutely. There were a number of very important commitments made to supporting peacekeeping safety, from providing air cover to providing equipment to providing training, and all of those contribute to helping peacekeepers operate in a more safe environment. And the attack in Mali just highlighted for us more how important it is that we continue to address peacekeeping safety. If they’re not safe, they can’t provide safety to the communities that they are supporting.
So there’s absolutely more that we can be doing, Daphne. The Peacekeeping Ministerial brought us a long way in that direction, but we have to keep working on these issues until peacekeepers are able to operate in a more secure and safe environment.
MODERATOR: Thank you. The next question will go to Ms. Kim. Jinmyung Kim, please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you, Ambassador. I am Jinmyung Kim from South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo. So today the Summit for Democracy is held, so I want to ask you how the UN peacekeeping mission fit into the context of competition between democracy and authoritarianism. Because China is now the second biggest financial contributor to UN peacekeeping missions, so how do you find that relations between the United States and China play out in the context of UN peacekeeping mission, and do you see any potential for cooperation in this area? Thank you.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Good. Thank you. That’s a very, very good question because, as you know, we’re hosting on – at the next two days the Summit of Democracies as well. And we do believe that democracies stand up for values. They stand up for the values that unit us, including peace, security, justice, and the rule of law. They stand up for human rights. They stand up for freedom of speech and assembly and press and religion.
UN peacekeepers also continue to be one of the most effective mechanisms for promoting international peace and security so that we can protect the world’s most vulnerable populations; we can protect them so that they can pursue their democratic rights. So as seen in our pledges that we made, the United States reaffirmed its unwavering commitment to strengthening peacekeeping operations so that they can be successful in delivering on this vital global mission and keep countries safe so that democracies can thrive.
In relationship to China, we do believe that diplomacy with China is important, especially where our interests intersect and where constructive cooperation is possible. And we stress the importance of what we consider a results-oriented engagement with the Chinese on key transnational challenges such as climate, such as health, such as trafficking, and such as peacekeeping and drugs. So we look forward to working with the Chinese in a diplomatic way where we can work with them.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much. The next question will go to Pearl. Pearl, can you unmute yourself, please, and ask your question?
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Daphne. And good morning to you, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield. Always good to – that you are available to our questions. My question is going to be centered on two things. One is particular to police peacekeeping and to women, peace, and security. So I wanted to find out from you – you mentioned that the United States has committed budget – actual budget money dollars. About what percentage or how big is the portion that’ll be targeted specifically to police peacekeeping?
And the reason I ask that is because I just wanted to understand from your perspective: Where are we in terms of the rule of law issues? And where is the police peacekeeping happening? Where are the successes on the world stage right now, and where are you facing challenges, particularly in keeping women, peace – women safe? Because I know we had the landmark Resolution 1325. And I would like to understand, given that resolution – landmark resolution, where are we in safeguarding women when it comes to voting and voter registration and voter and civil education? Is policing happening to protect them at those points, and particularly the – where they are happening on the continent in Africa? Thank you so much.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Both of those questions are extraordinarily important. And both of those issues – police in peacekeeping and women, peace, and security – were addressed in our commitments. And I would encourage you to look at our – the fact sheet that we put out that laid out the commitments we are making. We think it is extraordinarily important to have police peacekeepers within peacekeeping missions, because many of the issues that are being addressed by peacekeeping are really issues related to rule of law. And they can only be addressed by peacekeepers, by police peacekeeping.
And we have seen the challenges, for example, of what is happening in Haiti with peacekeepers, where we know that what is needed there is more support to the police. We have also addressed these issues where – I was ambassador in Liberia where we had a very effective operation providing peacekeeping police support to the Liberian police. We need to have women in these contingents because many of the issues that women face, they need to have a familiar face, another woman to address these issues with them who will take their issues seriously and move their issues forward.
And again, in Liberia, we had a huge contingent of women, peacekeepers. I also met the police – the head of the police unit in Mali when I was there, who happened to be a woman as well. But we still have to do more. We’ve not done enough on either side in getting more police and getting more women into these peacekeeping operations, and that was something we committed to addressing in our commitments.
QUESTION: And if I can ask a – follow-up questions, given that Kenya is on the Security Council, are they actively working to promote women, peace, and security in the Security Council and this policing aspect? Or what is Kenya focusing on while they have this fantastic opportunity as the model for Africa? What are they doing?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Good. We’re delighted to have Kenya on the Security Council with us. They are an extraordinary partner, and they are focusing on these issues. They’re focusing on women, peace, and security. They’re focusing on peacekeeping. And they have – unfortunately have had to take the lead on bringing the Security Council together on the situation in Ethiopia, because Ethiopia is Kenya’s neighbor and any insecurity in Ethiopia impacts Kenya. But they have been an extraordinary partner on all of these issues in the Security Council, and they’ve been a leader among the A3 – the A3+1 on the Security Council, addressing African issues.
Kenya will remain on the Security Council for another year. The other African members of the Security Council are leaving, so Kenya will be the experienced African voice on the Security Council joined by Gabon and Ghana. And I know that those two countries will be looking to Kenya for support, as I do now, on African issues and broader issues as well.
QUESTION: Thank you so much, Ambassador.
MODERATOR: Thank you. The next question will go to Radio Free Asia. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Can you hear me? Can you hear me?
MODERATOR: No. Can you speak up a little bit?
QUESTION: Does this make it better?
QUESTION: Okay, thank you. So during the ministerial, did the U.S. and South Korea and maybe other countries raise the issue of the consequences of declaring the end of the Korean War? Do you believe there can be a peaceful end of war declaration and – which could eventually lead to a peaceful Korean Peninsula when North Korea is still a nuclear-armed state with UN Security Council stressing the sanctions to remain in place due to their significant threat? Thank you.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you for that question. The United States continues to be committed to achieving lasting peace in the Korean Peninsula through dialogue and diplomacy with the DPRK. And to that end, we continue to seek engagement with the DPRK as part of a calibrated, practical approach to make tangible progress that we hope will increase the security of the United States, of Korea, of all of our allies and our deployed forces.
We don’t have any hostile intent toward the DPRK. And we have made clear since the beginning of this administration that we are prepared to meet them without preconditions, and we hope that the DPRK will respond positively to our outreach. We continue to consult closely with the Republic of Korea, with Japan, and other allies and partners about how best to engage the DPRK so that we can ensure that we have peace and security for all of the countries impacted by that country’s actions.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much. I think we have time for one or two more questions. The next question will go to Kemi. Please, go ahead. Kemi, can you please enable your audio to ask your question?
QUESTION: Okay, can you hear me?
MODERATOR: Yes, we can.
QUESTION: Okay, yeah. Sorry, I don’t know what is going on with the audio. I wanted to ask if you can talk about how you are engaging the civil society, especially women, now U.S. peacekeeping. Earlier today President Biden announced a new presidential initiative for democratic leadership, so I was wondering if you could talk about what you are doing engaging the civil society and women.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you for asking me that question. That gives me a great platform to talk about civil society because, for me, engaging with civil society is as important as engaging with our allies and our countries. And we are very supportive of civil society inclusion, civil society actions, and civil society work within the United Nations system. I meet regularly with civil society organizations here in New York. If I’m about to go on a trip in some region, I will reach out to organizations that are working in that region to get advice and guidance, direction from them. And when I travel to a region, I always meet with civil society organizations there.
So when I was in Israel, I met with civil society organizations. I met with civil society organizations in the West Bank. I met with civil society organizations in Jordan. When I was in Niger, in Mali, I also met with civil society because I think they play an important role. And we’re fighting every day to ensure that civil society is allowed to participate in the meetings and activities here at the United Nations, because there are some countries who push against and work against civil society being even allowed to participate in UN meetings. It is a very, very high priority here for me, and it is something that our administration is absolutely committed to.
MODERATOR: Thank you. The last question is going to go to Alex. Alex, please introduce yourself and your outlet. Thank you.
QUESTION: Yes, thank you so very much. This is Alex Raufoglu from Turan News Agency of Azerbaijan. Ambassador, it’s so great to see you and I want to give you a chance to talk about Russia, because it’s one of the top favorite subjects for us these days.
One of the UN’s basic roles of peacekeeping is no neighbors or no parties to any conflict due to their inherent bias, but Russia appears to be all over the place in the region. So it has pushed for years to insert itself as peacekeepers into Georgia, into Ukraine, and now into Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict zone. Can the UN become actively involved in keeping the peace in the region, south Caucasus and wider Black Sea? Can someone completely impartial in opinion share this burden? Thank you so much.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I – we try, to the extent that we can, to work with our Russian colleagues on areas of interest, but we’re also very consistent in our message to the Russians as it relates to conflict in the region. And you know that President Biden had a conversation with President Putin earlier this week, and we conveyed in no uncertain terms our concerns about the actions that we’re seeing play publicly – the actions that the Russians are taking on the Ukrainian border. Those are not peacekeepers. That is aggressive action.
The President told President Putin directly that if Russia invades Ukraine, the United States and Europe would respond, and we would respond with strong economic measures that they would definitely feel. And we also indicated that we would provide additional defensive materials to the Ukrainians as well.
We’re currently – I think as we speak, there is a resolution in the General Assembly supporting a resolution on Crimea and criticizing the Russians on that, and we’ve worked very hard to get support for that resolution. So it – efforts to destabilize the region that are being made by Russia are really – we’re very focused on those and we push back as we see them.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much. We are out of time. I want to thank Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield for sharing her time today. This briefing was on the record. I will share the transcript with those who attended the Zoom, and we will post the transcript as well on our website. And with that, good afternoon. Thank you.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you very much. Have a good holiday, everyone.
QUESTION: Thanks, Ambassador. Thanks, Daphne.
QUESTION: Thank you, Ambassador, and thank you, Daphne.