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The U.S. is set to take over the presidency of the U.N. Security Council for August

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Today, the United States takes up the presidency of the United Nations Security Council. The position rotates monthly among members. Human rights and global food security stop the U.S. agenda, but action may be blocked by other permanent council members with veto power, specifically Russia and China. To discuss this, we're joined now by Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Good morning, Ambassador. Thanks for being on the program.

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Good morning. Delighted to be with you.

FADEL: So a top U.S. priority is global food security. Russia pulling out of the Black Sea grain deal has threatened to push millions more into hunger without Ukrainian grain exports. What can the Security Council effectively do to change this?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, what we are doing during our month as president of the Security Council is bringing food security to the top of the agenda. And we actually made the decision to do this before Russia pulled out of the grain deal. In fact, this is the third time that I have brought food insecurity in front of the council. For us, food security is national security, and 700 million people go to bed hungry every night. No one should have to go to bed hungry. It really is a moral issue that we believe the Security Council has to pay attention to. It's about international peace and security.

FADEL: How do - how does the Security Council address this?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: One, we address it by bringing to the table experts who can talk about these issues. So we will be having NGOs brief us on what they are seeing in the field. We will be having the U.N. brief us about what they're seeing in the field, and we will raise the - and amplify the importance of this issue in the Council. Our plan is to issue a statement from our side. We've gotten about 60 countries to sign on to our statement supporting the efforts to focus our - to really focus our attention on this issue and work to end famine. There are regions around the world where we're still seeing famine-like conditions - in the Horn of Africa, for example. And this is not something that the U.S. can address alone. So this is our efforts to bring others into trying to find a solution.

FADEL: Is there common ground with Russia on issues related to famine?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: There is not common ground on - with Russia. Russia - what Russia is doing with its unprovoked war on Ukraine is actually exacerbating the situation. If we look at the number of countries that have been blocked from getting needed food assistance from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, certainly that shows that Russia is not committed to this. Russia pulled out of that deal at a time when they knew the needs were so great. They also vetoed a resolution that would have provided needed assistance to Syrians cross border. So, no, we are not in sync with Russia on this issue.

FADEL: So what can actually be done then if Russia has veto power, there is no common ground?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, we can get other countries to join us in pushing Russia, in encouraging Russia, urging Russia to do the right thing. The secretary general is currently still in negotiations with the Russians, with the support of the government of Turkey, to rejoin the Black Sea Grain Initiative. We're also working with the U.N. to find a path forward to getting food assistance across the border to Syria.

FADEL: Before I let you go, I do want to ask about the situation in - on the Tunisia-Libya border. Human rights - also top agenda for the U.S. There are mass expulsions, people dying of thirst and hunger in the desert, mass expulsions by the Tunisian government. How are global powers approaching what appears to be a seriously inhumane situation?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We're working with the UNHCR, with the International Organization for Migration, to find a path to provide needed assistance to these individuals, to provide protection. The UNHCR has called for Tunisia and other governments to honor their commitments to provide protection to asylum-seekers, and we're engaging with those governments, as well.

FADEL: Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, thank you for your time.

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you very much, Leila. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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