VOA: Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, thank you for this opportunity. The world today is going through a period of turbulence, in which the Security Council is at the forefront. However, you found the time to come to Albania. What is the purpose of this visit and what did you discuss with the Albanian authorities?
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield: Well, first let me say that Albania and the United States have had a relationship for 100 years. So we commemorate 100 years of relationship. But more importantly, Albania sits on the Security Council and we have regular dialogue with them. “We are with them, and they are with us,” as Secretary Baker said in the square here many years ago. And that saying still stands. And I’m here to reaffirm that relationship, to thank Albania for being an amazing partner to us in the Council, and to discuss with members of the government our priorities and interests as we move forward in the year to come.
VOA: The Russian aggression in Ukraine and the multiple consequences it engenders are among the main issues today. Are you worried that Russia will oppose the renewal of the grain deal later this month?
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield: This grain agreement has gone a long way to addressing some of the currents in the food security environment. Russia and Ukraine supply significant quantities of cereals. More than 10 million metric tons of cereals have passed through this quarter since the start of this agreement. So it is important. This is a significant achievement for the international community, in particular. I would like to congratulate the Secretary-General for the extraordinary efforts that he and his team have made in collaboration with Turkey to conclude this agreement with Russia and Ukraine. Russia’s very temporary announcement to withdraw from the deal last week caused a lot of friction in the market. So our hope is that this [grain deal] will be extended. This grain agreement is important for the countries of the South. It is important for Ukraine. And it is also important for Russia.
VOA: There is a discussion about Russia’s withdrawal from the United Nations Security Council. Several suggestions were made. What is the US position on the issue and why?
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield: Currently, our position is reality. The reality is that Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council. We have worked over the past year to isolate them, to condemn them by several votes at the General Assembly, where they have been condemned sharply. And we will continue to pressure them until they are out of Ukraine.
VOA: There are fears that if the Republicans win a majority in Congress, they will reduce their support for Ukraine. How worried are you?
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield: Listen, I’m not going to comment on domestic politics, but what I will say is that support for Ukraine has been bipartisan and the President will work with any Congress to ensure that we continue our commitment to the Ukrainian people.
VOA: How do you see the fact that Iran provides Russia with drones, which are used in Ukraine?
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield: The Iranian Foreign Minister admitted that they were providing these drones. They implied that they were only provided at the beginning and that they were unarmed. The truth is that Iranian drones have been used to attack civilians in Ukraine, violating Security Council resolutions that prohibit such shipment of weapons from Iran and also to Russia. Both countries are therefore responsible for this. This shows that Russia must depend on Iran for its weapons and that Iran is ready to supply weapons to a country which attacked its neighbour, a country which is a permanent member of the Security Council. This is not the kind of behavior one would expect from Russia. We are not surprised by Iran. But again, this violates Security Council resolutions and this is something we need to address in the Council.
VOA: The United States recently became involved, along with Albania, in the matter of the demonstrations in Iran. Vice President Kamala Harris said a few days ago that the United States would try to remove Iran from the UN Commission on the Status of Women. How are you going to do it and how difficult will it be?
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield: Well, first of all let me commend the brave women of Iran who are standing up and protesting the horrific attacks they are facing at the hands of their government and speaking out, again, as we have before, our grief for the murder of [Mahsa] Amini. The decision the Vice President announced last week is one that we will work with other members of the Status of Women Committee to move forward. Iran does not deserve to be on this committee. This committee aims to support women. It’s about supporting women’s human rights. And no country that attacks women, that is to say a country that does not respect the fundamental rights of women, should not sit on this Council. We had a very fruitful informal meeting in New York with Albania, where we condemned the attacks taking place in Iran. And this condemnation has come from a large number of countries that see what is happening to the brave and courageous Iranian women and men who demonstrate in the streets.
VOA: After Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, concern over Russian influence in the Balkans grew. How worrying do you think this influence is and what can be done to counter it?
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield: You know, we had discussions during the day today with the Albanian government on the situation in the Balkans. We support efforts to stabilize this situation. We have just adopted the Security Council resolution on the continuation of the stabilization force. And we will continue to work with the countries of the region to advance an agreement that will bring peace to the region. And that is something that we are committed to and committed to working with the Albanian government.
VOA: Last question. What keeps you up at night as a UN ambassador?
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield: Oh my God. It changes day by day. But I would say the key thing that keeps me awake is that we have a permanent member of the Security Council who really compromises and attacks a neighbor, really compromises peace and security, and does not respect the position of a member standing of the Council. The impact that this has on the issue, I mean, the world’s confidence in the Security Council that challenges our ability to deal with this situation. I know we are managing the situation. I know we are isolating Russia, but I know that means we really need to step up our own efforts in reforming the Security Council and responding to threats to peace and security in the future.
VOA: Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, thank you very much for this interview.
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield: Thanks. I am delighted to be here with you.