Climate change will be the UNGA centrepiece, but growing fear of military action, especially in response to attacks on Saudi oil installations, hangs over this year's gathering.

The planet is getting hotter, and tackling that climate peril will grab the spotlight as world leaders gather for their annual meeting at the United Nations this week facing an undeniable backdrop: rising tensions from the Persian Gulf to Afghanistan and increasing nationalism, inequality and intolerance.

Growing fear of military action, especially in response to recent attacks on Saudi oil installations that are key to world energy supplies, hangs over this year's General Assembly gathering. 

"Our fraying world needs international cooperation more than ever, but simply saying it will not make it happen," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said. "Let's face it: We have no time to lose."

That unease is exacerbated by global conflicts and crises from Syria and Yemen to Venezuela, from disputes between Israel and the Palestinians to the Pakistan-India standoff over Kashmir.

All eyes will be watching presidents Donald Trump of the United States and Hassan Rouhani of Iran, whose countries are at the forefront of escalating tensions, to see if they can reduce fears of a confrontation that could impact the Mideast and far beyond. Whether the two will even meet remains in serious doubt.

This year's General Assembly session, which starts Tuesday and ends September 30, has attracted world leaders from 136 of the 193 UN member nations. 

That large turnout reflects a growing global focus on addressing climate change and the perilous state of peace and security.

Other countries will be represented by ministers and vice presidents — except Afghanistan, whose leaders are in a hotly contested presidential campaign ahead of September 28 elections, and North Korea, which downgraded its representation from a minister to, likely, its UN ambassador. 

Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled plans to attend and are sending ministers.

Last week, Guterres repeated warnings that "tensions are boiling over." 

The world, he said, "is at a critical moment on several fronts — the climate emergency, rising inequality, an increase in hatred and intolerance as well as an alarming number of peace and security challenges."

With so many monarchs, presidents and prime ministers at the UN this year, "we have a chance to advance diplomacy for peace," Guterres said. "This is the moment to cool tensions."

Whether that happens remains to be seen. 

Source: AP