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U.S. ambassador to the UN talks about why the U.S. obtained from new Gaza resolution

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

The United Nations Security Council today passed a resolution calling for steps to be taken to allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza. The resolution stops short of calling for an immediate cease-fire in the war between Israel and Hamas. That war began after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, killing some 1,200 people. And since then, more than 20,000 people have been killed in the Palestinian territory amid heavy Israeli bombardments. That's according to Gaza's health ministry.

The U.N. resolution passed today was the subject of lengthy negotiations among diplomats on the Security Council, all aimed at avoiding a U.S. veto. In the end, the U.S. abstained from voting altogether, as did another permanent member of the Security Council, Russia. All images is the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and joins us now. Welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you, Scott. Delighted to be here with you.

DETROW: Why did the U.S. abstain from this resolution?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, the resolution was not perfect. The resolution did not condemn Hamas's really horrific acts of October 7, and we have regularly raised that as a concern in the council. And we also thought the resolution should have called for additional pauses that would allow for more humanitarian assistance to get in quickly and allow for hostages to be released. But that said, there were some positives in the resolution.

DETROW: But what specifically in the resolution did the U.S. have enough of an issue with to not vote for it? Because I'm looking through it, and there's a lot of language here that I assume the U.S. supports, underlining the urgent need for full, rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access. You know, talking about the civilian population in the Gaza Strip must have access to sufficient quantities of assistance that they need, including food, water, sanitation. What specifically did the U.S. object to?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: It was the lack of condemnation of Hamas that was specifically a concern for the United States. But as I said, we did not vote against the resolution. Our abstention was a way of allowing this resolution to pass because of the important elements in the resolution that supports getting humanitarian assistance to those in need, getting the hostages medical treatment, allowing fuel and food and medical supplies to get in.

DETROW: I do have a question about some of the negotiations that led to this vote. As I mentioned at the top, there were concerns that the U.S. might veto if certain language was in it, including language calling for an immediate cease-fire. Why doesn't the U.S. want a call for an immediate cease-fire at this point?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look. Israel has a right to defend itself. And calling for an immediate cease fire when Hamas continues to barrage large Israeli territories with constant bombing, when Hamas continues to say publicly and openly they intend to carry out another October-7-like event, does not give confidence to anyone that a cease-fire is what is needed now. Israel has a right to defend itself, and that is a right that we, as well as other Security Council members, support.

DETROW: This resolution calls for more aid to make its way into Gaza. At the same time, a lot of the active aid groups in the Gaza Strip say this resolution wasn't enough, that the need is urgent, that many people are dying. What are the concrete steps being taken on the ground right now to get those medical supplies, to get that food to the people who need it?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We do believe that the needs are urgent. And we know that this resolution will create the conditions that will allow for a sustainable cessation, for immediate and urgent steps to get the safe and unhindered and expanded humanitarian assistance and access to people on the ground. We worked to get a second border crossing open, Kerem Shalom. That border crossing is open, and now more trucks are going through that crossing. And we know that the resolution will help to supplement, as I said before, the direct diplomacy that the United States is taking on the ground every single day.

DETROW: Coming back to that main point, though, any concern that - with that diplomacy that's taking place, that the U.S. doesn't lose any ability to push for what's needed when it did not affirmatively back this current resolution?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: This current resolution, every single person in the room knew that it was through U.S. effort that this resolution passed. It created a monitoring mechanism on the ground. It called for the appointment of a humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator. We help to negotiate all of that language that will get us to a place where more assistance is going in. So our efforts were very much appreciated. Our efforts were positive. And our efforts led to the passing of this resolution.

DETROW: That's the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield. Thank you so much.

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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William Troop
Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.