New U.S. ambassador hits ground ‘sprinting’ at U.N., stresses re-engagement

PUBLISHED: Thu, 25 Feb 2021 20:59:15 GMT

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 25 (Reuters) – U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield hit “the ground sprinting” as she arrived in New York on Thursday, just days before the United States takes over the presidency of the U.N. Security Council.

During her Senate confirmation hearing earlier this month, Thomas-Greenfield stressed the importance of U.S. re-engagement with the 193-member world body in order to challenge efforts by China to “drive an authoritarian agenda.”

Beijing has been pushing for greater global influence in a challenge to traditional U.S. leadership. Former President Donald Trump pulled the United States back from international organizations as part of his “America First” policies.

“We’re clear eyed about the difficult work that needs to be done from elevating human rights to reforming the U.N. itself, to addressing conflicts, old and new around the world,” Thomas-Greenfield said on Thursday.

“We look forward to engaging our allies and our partners to get it done,” she told reporters after presenting her credentials to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Thomas-Greenfield is a 35-year veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service who served on four continents, most notably in Africa.

She joins counterparts with decades of experience in diplomacy from Britain, France, China and Russia which, along with the United States, make up the Security Council’s five permanent veto-wielding members.

The United States will take over the monthly rotating presidency of the 15-member Security Council for March.

“I’ve not only hit the ground running, I’m actually hitting the ground sprinting,” Thomas-Greenfield joked.

Trump was critical of the United Nations and wary of the value of multilateralism. He announced plans to quit the World Health Organization, and pulled out of the U.N. Human Rights Council, the U.N. cultural agency UNESCO, a global climate change accord and the Iran nuclear deal.

President Joe Biden, who took office in January, rescinded the U.S. decision to withdraw from the WHO and returned the United States to the climate agreement.

“Multilateralism is back and diplomacy is back and America is back and we’re ready to get to work,” Thomas-Greenfield. (Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Grant McCool)

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