US Amb to UN: ‘We’re hopeful’ the Black Sea Grain Initiative can be revived
Since Russia pulled out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative in July, its troops have been attacking Ukraine’s ports, destroying 220,000 metric tons of grain in the past week alone. But US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that the grain deal could be brought back to life.
An employee walks near mangled warehouses at a grain facility in Pavlivka, Ukraine, July 22, 2023, following Russian missile attacks. The collapse of the Black Sea grain deal and a series of missile strikes on Ukrainian grain silos and ports have left farmers with few options to export their grain — and all of them are getting more expensive.
Jae C. Hong/AP
The United Nations World Food Program said on Tuesday that it will slowly resume food aid to Ethiopia.
UN officials had cut off the aid nearly five months ago after discovering some of the donations were being resold at local markets.
The risk of hunger is increasing around the world. Combating it is high on the UN's agenda, especially since Russia pulled out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative a few weeks ago.
The US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, has made combating hunger a priority since the US took over the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council for the month of August.
Thomas-Greenfield spoke with The World’s Carolyn Beeler from New York about where the situation stands.
Carolyn Beeler: I want to first off remind people of the mechanics of the UN Security Council. Any of the five permanent members can unilaterally veto resolutions. Russia is one of those five permanent members, which means it can just stop you in your tracks. The UN Security Council seems kind of paralyzed when it comes to the war in Ukraine. What role can the security council play?
US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield: Well, Carolyn, I actually have to disagree with that. I do know and everyone understands that Russia does have the veto power, but they have not been successful in blocking the security council from taking action. And as president of the council, of course, I get to shape the council's agenda for the month. And the UK was president last month. We have been able to isolate Russia in the security council. Basically, it's been 14 to 1. So, they are on their back foot, they're on their heels, they are in a defensive mode. And while they have been able to wield their veto power, they have not been able to wield their own power in terms of influencing the rest of the council.
But, of course, the UN Security Council has not been able to stop this conflict since Russia pulled out of the Black Sea Green Initiative a few weeks ago. It's been attacking Ukraine's ports. It's destroyed 220,000 metric tons of grain in the past few weeks alone. That means that grain prices have spiked. That's going to be devastating, especially for food-insecure countries. What is the way out here?
The secretary-general, the government of Turkey, are continuing their efforts to bring Russia back into the grain deal. Their attacks on Ukraine, however, show the lack of concern that they have for people around the world. And if you just look at the millions of tons of grain that we were able to get through, I think Secretary [Antony] Blinken said the other day that the equivalent of that 30 million tons of grain that was going through the grain deal was equivalent to about 18 billion loaves of bread. That is millions upon millions of people who are being impacted by their actions.
At this point, do you think that the Black Sea Grain Initiative somehow can be revived?
We're hopeful. The secretary-general has not given up. The government of Turkey is working along with him to urge the Russians to come back into the deal, and we support those efforts. This certainly was an advantage to the Russians. They were getting their grain out. In fact, they've got now more of their grain since this war started than they did the previous year. So, they have a reason to go back into the grain deal. And hopefully, through the efforts of the secretary-general, they will eventually come to the right decision.
Russia is now approaching several impacted countries with these bilateral offers of grain shipments at discounted prices. Is the US prepared to respond to this in any way? Are they making similar offers to vulnerable countries?
As far as what we are doing, the US has been in the forefront. We provided about $14 billion in additional funding for food security worldwide. Secretary Blinken was in New York last week. He announced an additional $350 million in aid to 11 African countries and Haiti. And we are continuing to push for more support for the World Food Program. We provide about 50% of the budget for the World Food Program, and Russia contributes less than 1% — in fact, they contribute less than the country of Somalia.
I want to leave Russia and Ukraine for a moment and turn to Niger now. The UN Security Council hasn't been able to muster much of a response to the ousting of the president, Mohamed Bazoum. What can the global community do here?
Well, first, the security council came out very, very early on this. The three African countries who are members of the council actually called for an emergency meeting on Niger, and we issued a statement condemning the attempted coup.
So, the UN Security Council can issue statements, but there's nothing on the ground. Do you think at this point that the coup can really be reversed?
Well, look, in our estimation, President Bazoum is still the democratically elected president of Niger, and we are supporting diplomatic efforts to turn this around. As you know, acting deputy secretary and undersecretary for political affairs, Victoria Nuland, was in Niger yesterday as she spoke on the phone to President Bazoum. We're going to continue to support their efforts to turn this around.
Are US officials avoiding calling what happened in Niger a coup?
We're not avoiding calling it a coup. It is not yet a successful effort. President Bazoum still remains the elected president of this country. We have temporarily suspended our direct assistance to the government until President Bazoum is reinstalled. But we are continuing to provide humanitarian assistance directly.
What about the more than 1,000 US soldiers present in Niger right now? Will they be withdrawn?
I can't comment on that right now. We're watching that situation very closely. And I know that DOD [Department of Defense] is looking at what steps they might need to take.
One final topic for you: Haiti. The US has said it's willing to introduce a resolution at the UN Security Council to authorize a multinational force led by Kenya to help Haitian police fight armed gangs. How involved is the US prepared to get in this effort?
Well, we're actively engaged in this effort. We are the so-called pen holders for the Haiti resolution. So, we're working very, very closely with all of the members of the council to ensure that we put in the resolution what will be necessary for the Kenyan contingent on the ground to be successful. This was a request that came directly to the council from the government of Haiti. And we're working very, very closely with that government as well to ensure that what we eventually agree to will work to address the very dire situation on the ground. The gangs are controlling huge swaths of the country. They're blocking civilians from moving from neighborhood to neighborhood. And the situation has gotten to the point of really, it requires a response to really get the country back on track.
UN peacekeepers from Kenya have had a mixed record in the past, though, with some being accused of abusing civilians and supporting smuggling rings. Does that concern you or give you pause?
We're working closely with the Kenyan government. We have called out any misbehavior by peacekeeping troops wherever those happen; we’ve called for accountability. And this is something that we will work closely with the Kenyans on as they begin to put together this contingent to go to Haiti.