World Leaders Face Crises at UN Meeting09/21 06:08
World leaders will be back at the United Nations for the first time in two
years on Tuesday with a formidable agenda of escalating crises to tackle,
including the still raging COVID-19 pandemic and a relentlessly warming planet.
NEW YORK (AP) -- World leaders will be back at the United Nations for the
first time in two years on Tuesday with a formidable agenda of escalating
crises to tackle, including the still raging COVID-19 pandemic and a
relentlessly warming planet.
Other pressing issues are rising U.S.-China tensions, Afghanistan's
unsettled future under its new Taliban rulers and ongoing conflicts in Yemen,
Syria and Ethiopia's embattled Tigray region.
Last year, no leaders came to the U.N. because the coronavirus was sweeping
the globe, so all their addresses were pre-recorded. This year, the General
Assembly offered leaders a choice of coming to New York or remaining online,
and more than 100 heads of state and government decided to appear in person in
the General Assembly hall.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres, who opens the week-long event,
"will pull no punches in expressing his concern about the state of the world,
and he will lay out a vision to bridge the numerous divides that stand in the
way of progress," U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
By tradition, the first country to speak is Brazil, whose president, Jair
Bolsonaro, isn't vaccinated. He reiterated last Thursday that he doesn't plan
to get the shot any time soon, justifying his refusal by saying he had COVID-19
and therefore has a high level of antibodies.
A key issue ahead of the meetings has been COVID-19 entry requirements for
leaders to the United States -- and to the U.N. headquarters itself. The U.S.
requires a vaccination or a recent COVID-19 test, and the U.N. will operate on
an honor system whereby anyone entering the complex attests that they do not
have symptoms of COVID-19 and have not tested positive in the last 10 days.
The three most closely watched speakers on Tuesday morning are expected to
be U.S. President Joe Biden, appearing at the U.N. for the first time since his
defeat of Donald Trump in the November election, China's President Xi Jinping,
who in a surprise move will deliver a video address, and Iran's recently
elected hardline President Ebrahim Raisi.
Ahead of the opening of the General Assembly's annual General Debate,
Guterres issued a dire warning that the world could be plunged into a new and
probably more dangerous Cold War unless the United States and China repair
their "totally dysfunctional" relationship.
The U.N. chief said in an interview this weekend with The Associated Press
that Washington and Beijing should be cooperating on the climate crisis and
negotiating on trade and technology, but "unfortunately, today we only have
confrontation" including over human rights and geostrategic problems mainly in
the South China Sea.
Speaking last week about Biden's speech, Richard Gowan, U.N. director of the
International Crisis Group, said "the really significant question is exactly
how he frames relations with China." He predicted that Biden "won't be as
forthright in criticism of China as Trump was, especially in 2019 and 2020,"
but rather will "try and cast China as a country that is challenging the
rules-based world order and a country that should not be trusted with
leadership of the international system."
On the latest speakers list released earlier this month, China's speech was
supposed to be delivered on Friday by a deputy prime minister. But the U.N.
confirmed Monday that Xi will give the country's video address instead.
His speech and any comments about the U.S. rivalry are certain to be closely
watched and analyzed.
Other leaders scheduled to speak in person during the meeting, which ends
Sept. 27, include King Abdullah II of Jordan, the president of Venezuela, and
the prime ministers of Japan, India and the United Kingdom along with Israel's
new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Leaders delivering prerecorded statements this year include the presidents
of Egypt, Indonesia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. French President Emmanuel
Macron was supposed to deliver a pre-recorded statement on Tuesday, but the
government said Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will now deliver the
country's address virtually on the final day.
France and China have reacted angrily to the surprise announcement by Biden,
alongside the leaders of Australia and Britain, of a deal to provide Australia
with at least eight nuclear-powered submarines. Australia had signed a contract
worth at least $66 billion for a dozen French conventional diesel-electric
submarines and their construction was already under way.
Le Drian told a news conference Monday that there is a "crisis of trust"
between the United States and its oldest ally, France, as well as Europe, which
has been excluded from the new US-UK-Australia alliance focused on the
Indo-Pacific and aimed at confrontation with China. He said Europeans "should
not be left behind," and need to define their own strategic interests.