Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the United Nations, postponed a visit scheduled for Monday to the Syrian-Turkish border, but she will still travel to Brussels, Belgium, next week for a conference of the European Union on the future of Syria, the American mission to the United Nations announced on Saturday.
Thomas-Greenfield’s visit comes amid fears that Russia could stand in the way of maintaining the single pathway that allows aid into the war-torn country. The Biden administration is preparing to advocate for the need to maintain cross-border humanitarian aid to Syria, a senior State Department official told reporters.
The world is also facing another massive humanitarian crisis, in Ukraine, where the Russian invasion continues to displace millions of people.
The official told reporters on Friday before the border visit was postponed: “Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield’s message is precisely going to be that the refugees from the conflict in Syria are not forgotten. … Our goal is to face humanitarian crises around the world wherever we find them and to get through them even over very long periods of time.
Thomas-Greenfield had planned to meet with Syrian refugees and the humanitarian organizations that support them. She also planned to visit the Bab al-Hawa border post, which is the only crossing point from Turkey to Syria allowing the delivery of humanitarian aid.
The year-long agreement to keep the Bab al-Hawa border crossing open is due to expire in July. The deal was the result of a UN Security Council resolution last year. The United States will have to engage with Russia and other members of the Security Council in an effort to keep Bab al-Hawa open.
“It is very timely because there is a critical moment coming at the Security Council to renew, expand, broaden access to essential humanitarian assistance for the Syrian people. The United States will continue to champion this assistance and the role – the critical role that the United Nations must play in providing this assistance, and in rallying the members of the Security Council to support the extension of the resolution but also to rally the world around the needs of the Syrian people and the urgency of this humanitarian crisis even as we address the conflict in Ukraine and Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine,” the senior State Department official said Friday.
The subject of border crossings will be at the heart of the UN Security Council in the months to come.
“I think we are going to focus on the same kind of intense diplomatic engagement, telling the Council how serious the situation is and how it will get even worse if this cross-border assistance is not reauthorized,” said the a. said the official. “Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield wants to go to Turkey to see firsthand and update her knowledge of the situation, the urgency of the needs, and to be able to convey that to the Council, and that will be a conversation that Russia is a part too.