UN summit: many crises overshadowed by war in Ukraine
Western and European officials say the challenge of the week at the UN General Assembly will be to address the problems of Ukraine but also of other countries, while trying to counter the Russian narrative, which is resonating widely in developing countries. EURACTIV reports from New York.
In the face of energy and food shortages, climate change deregulation and economic turmoil, world leaders gather in New York for the annual UN Fall Meeting. The aftermath of the war in Ukraine and its global ramifications are expected to overshadow this year’s largest diplomatic gathering.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned last week that the session would come at a time of “Great danger».
«Geostrategic divisions are not that important, at least since the Cold War. They are crippling the global response to the grand challenges we face‘ he said afterwards.
On Monday (September 19), his spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said during a briefing: “You can expect a sober, substantive and solution-oriented report from the Secretary-General on the state of our world, where geopolitical divisions put us all at risk.».
«His remarks are not watered down, but he gives cause for hopeadded Mr. Dujarric.
This declaration comes as the United Nations has moved beyond its traditional main agenda and a series of parallel sessions and informal summits will be the arena for the real and difficult discussions this year.
The present and the absent
The general debate, the week’s main event at the UN General Assembly, began Tuesday morning (September 20) local time with speeches by 33 world leaders, including Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and French President Emmanuel Macron .
Contrary to the custom of the host country, US President Joe Biden initially refrained from speaking in order to travel to Great Britain and attend the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. He will speak on Wednesday.
The Biden administration intends to use this rally to rally international support for Ukraine and condemn Russia.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will not be physically present, but he has been granted a rare exception to the requirement for all leaders to speak in person and will therefore deliver a pre-recorded speech.
Last week, the 193 members of this body voted in favor of Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s virtual speech, which was adopted by 101 votes, despite 19 abstentions, including China, and seven countries opposed – Belarus, Cuba, Eritrea, Nicaragua, North Korea, and Russia Syria.
Ukraine hopes to use this event to advocate a special tribunal to prosecute war crimes.
The leaders of China, Russia and India, who all met for a summit in Uzbekistan last week, are conspicuously absent, preferring to send their foreign ministers.
As a result, their countries received the worst speaker seats, as the vast majority of countries are represented by senior officials. Ministers are unlikely to be able to address the assembly before the weekend.
Russia has accused Washington of trying to block its full participation in the General Assembly by delaying issuing visas to Russian officials.
Just a few days ago, after a long wait, the United States issued Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with a visa allowing him to travel to New York for the meeting, but with only half the delegation requested by Moscow.
Moscow initially asked Washington for 56 visas, according to a letter from Russian UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia to UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Lavrov has so far received requests for about 20 meetings with other leaders.
Ukraine in the foreground
However, the chances of a dialogue between Russians and Ukrainians in New York are slim.
«It would be naïve to think that we are close to the possibility of a peace agreementsaid Antonio Guterres last week.
EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell told reporters in New York on Monday that the current situation is a “perfect storm” Where “High energy and food prices caused by the war led to the beginning of a financial crisis».
«Everyone is affected and we Europeans have to do more than the rest of the world‘ he explained.
At the start of the war, 141 of the 193 UN members supported a resolution calling on Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine. But Moscow has sought to turn the tide and compete for influence with the countries hardest hit by the effects of the war.
Diplomats from other parts of the world, including Africa, Asia and Latin America, have repeatedly expressed frustration at being pressured to take sides in the war in Ukraine.
According to Western and European officials, the challenge this week is to reconcile Ukraine’s problems with those of their countries, while trying to counter the Russian narrative that Western punitive measures are harming the entire world.
Mr Borrell said his intention this week was to “See how you can counter Russian rhetoric trying to convince people around the world that our sanctions are causing this problem, when in fact it is a consequence of the war itself».
«We will continue to explain to our partners in Asia, Africa and Latin America who are the real culprits for the growing instability, energy and food crisesMr Borrell told reporters.
«We will show that the European Union does not forget and remains committed to other challenges and crises in other parts of the world – and there is no lack of that. But for us it’s not about choosing between Ukraine and the others“, he added.
French officials have announced that Mr Macron intends to use his two-day visit to New York to put pressure on countries that have remained neutral in the war and try to win them over to the West, including India, the Gulf countries, Africa and some Latin American States.
On Tuesday, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, the European Union, the United States, the African Union and Spain will co-chair a special summit on food security, following a G7 meeting in June where they pledged to spend around 4.5 billion euros on the fight against hunger in the world.
A ministerial-level meeting on Ukraine is expected at the UN Security Council on Thursday, but Russia will of course have the option to veto any meaningful action. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba is also expected, as are MM Blinken and Lavrov and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
A likely follow-up to the deal brokered by Mr Guterres and Turkey to bring Ukrainian grain and Russian food and fertilizer to world markets is also expected, especially as the United Nations warns of the prospect of “many famines” this year, particularly in the US Horn of Africa and Ethiopia, where war is raging.
With negotiations on Iran’s burgeoning nuclear program deadlocked, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is expected to make his debut at the meeting.
His speech on Wednesday will be closely monitored for signs of a possible breakthrough, which diplomats say is unlikely.
Mr Raisi has ruled out meeting Mr Biden while he is in New York, but key negotiators from the European Union and the United States are present.
After the Trump administration pulled out of the deal and imposed sanctions on Iran, the Biden administration, along with its European allies, attempted to relaunch a nuclear deal with Iran, but recently hinted that Tehran’s latest proposal is a dead end .
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