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NEW YORK — World leaders are gathering in Manhattan for the 77th United Nations General Assembly this week — the first fully in-person General Assembly meeting since the pandemic began. Heads of state, heads of government and high-level diplomats are present from all over the world.
Secretary-General António Guterres, who warned last week that this is a time of “great peril” and stressed that “geostrategic divides are the widest they have been since at least the Cold War”, will open the debate Tuesday morning.
“You can expect the Secretary-General to deliver a sober, substantial and solutions-oriented record on the state of our world where geopolitical divisions put us all at risk. There will be no sugar coating in his remarks, but he outlines reasons for hope,” spokesman Stéphane Dujarric told reporters on Monday.
Here are some things to look out for at the start of the annual UN General Assembly High-Level Debate.
The war in Ukraine
António Guterres told NPR last week that he didn’t think there was a chance for dialogue between Russians and Ukrainians in New York, adding that they were “far off” from the terms of a peace deal. .
At the start of the war, 141 of the 193 UN member states backed a resolution calling on Russia to withdraw from Ukraine. Although there is overwhelming support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and Russia criticizes the violation of the UN Charter by launching the war, some diplomats from Africa, Asia and Latin America have expressed their frustration at being pressured to take sides in the war in Ukraine as the war diverts attention from their country’s problems.
US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield has heard these concerns. “We know that as this horrible war rages across Ukraine, we cannot ignore the rest of the world. There are conflicts elsewhere. There are issues that affect us all,” he said. she told reporters last Friday.
The Security Council will hold a session on Ukraine on Thursday.
Ripple effects of war
“The war in Ukraine is devastating a country and dragging down the global economy,” António Guterres said during a press briefing ahead of the General Assembly high-level segment.
With Turkey, he brokered an agreement to bring Ukrainian grain supplies and Russian food and fertilizers to world markets. Still, he warns there is a real risk of “multiple famines” this year. This includes in the Horn of Africa, a situation aggravated by renewed fighting in Ethiopia.
The war in Ukraine has also disrupted energy markets. Guterres said he was frustrated that fossil fuel companies were benefiting from rising prices and called on countries to impose taxes.
As talks stall and Iran’s nuclear program rapidly expands, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is set to make his in-person debut at the UN
The Biden administration, along with its allies in Europe, has tried to revive a nuclear deal with Iran, but says Iran’s latest proposal takes a step back.
The Trump administration scrapped the deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran, which seeks guarantees that won’t happen again. The Iranians also want the International Atomic Energy Agency to close an investigation into past nuclear activities. US officials say Iran should simply answer questions from the IAEA.
Raisi delivered his speech at the UN last year via video. Critics point out that he has a long history of abuse, having played a key role in the executions of thousands of Iranian political prisoners in 1998 and the crackdown on the country’s green movement in 2009. Raisi is also likely to face a backlash to the death in police custody last week of a 22-year-old Iranian woman who was beaten by morality police for not respecting the rules relating to the wearing of a headgear.
António Guterres said he would raise his concerns about human rights and Iran’s nuclear program if, as planned, he meets with the Iranian leader.
Taliban officials, who face a foreign travel ban, are not expected in New York.
In a prisoner exchange announced on Monday, the United States released Afghan drug lord Bashir Noorzai for the freedom of American engineer Mark Frerichs, who had been held captive in Afghanistan for two and a half years.
The Taliban seek greater international recognition and access to central bank funds, frozen in the United States
Washington announced last week that it had created a special fund – which will remain beyond the reach of the Taliban – to begin disbursing $3.5 billion to the Afghan people.
Former Afghan parliamentarian Naheed Farid wants UN member states to keep up pressure on the Taliban to let girls go to school and restore other rights. She describes the situation in her country as “gender apartheid”.
She recently told UN reporters that she was hearing more and more stories of Afghan women “choosing to take their own lives out of desperation and desperation”.
“This is the ultimate indicator of how bad the situation is for Afghan women and girls – that they choose death and that it is preferred to them over living under Taliban rule,” she said.
Who speaks when?
The pandemic has disrupted UNGA meetings for the past two years, but this year diplomats are returning to their normal in-person meeting routine, which some jokingly call “diplomatic speed-dating”.
Planners had to make last-minute rearrangements to accommodate the schedules of President Biden and other world leaders attending Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral in London on Monday.
Usually the leader of the host country is among the first speakers, giving the United States a chance to set the agenda. But this year, President Biden will deliver his annual address a day later on Wednesday.
One leader – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy – will address the rally virtually, the only leader to do so this year.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken will chair meetings Biden is unable to attend, including one on food security, a major theme of the Biden administration’s diplomacy at the UN