The United Nations General Assembly's annual debate session opened on September 19 with the Rohingya crisis, the Syria war and the UN's own performance in focus.

The United Nations General Assembly opened its 72nd session on September 12, 2017, with an emphasis on striving for peace and a decent life for all on a sustainable planet.
The United Nations General Assembly opened its 72nd session on September 12, 2017, with an emphasis on striving for peace and a decent life for all on a sustainable planet. (AP file photo)

The 72nd debate session of the United Nations General Assembly opened on Tuesday, September 19.

Antonio Guterres took the floor for the first time as the new UN secretary-general.

In other firsts, United States President Donald Trump also addressed the UNGA General Debate, his speech causing a stir around the world.   

Here's the latest from the sessions so far:

Thursday, September 21:

Security Council meeting on Daesh

The United Nations Security Council on Thursday approved the creation of a UN investigative team to collect, preserve and store evidence in Iraq of acts by Deash that may be war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide.

The 15-member council unanimously adopted a British-drafted resolution, after a year of negotiations with Iraq, that asks Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to establish a team "to support domestic efforts" to hold the militants accountable.

Use of the evidence collected by the team in other venues, such as international courts, would "be determined in agreement with the Government of Iraq on a case by case basis."

In addition to Deashs war crimes, the UN Security Council met to discuss the acute threat posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. September 21, 2017.
In addition to Deashs war crimes, the UN Security Council met to discuss the acute threat posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. September 21, 2017. (Reuters)

On the sidelines: US UN Ambassador Nikki Haley on Myanmar

The United States is worried about the "tragedies" in Myanmar affecting Rohingya Muslims and US authorities are pressing government leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Myanmar's military leaders to stop the crackdown, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said.

"Not only have we pressed her, we pressed the military," Haley told reporters, referring to Suu Kyi. She said US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph Dunford was calling the head of Myanmar's military to say "this cannot continue."

US, South Korea and Japan

US President Donald Trump meets with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in New York

US President Donald Trump said he had signed an executive order that would allow the United States to ramp up sanctions on North Korean firms in an effort to dissuade Pyongyang from pursuing its nuclear missile program.

"Our new executive order will cut off sources of revenue that fund North Korea's efforts to develop the deadliest weapons known to humankind," he told reporters ahead of a luncheon meeting with the leaders of Japan and South Korea.

President Trump said North Koreas textiles, fishing, information technology, and manufacturing industries were among those the United States could target in terms of its sanctions. September 21, 2017.
President Trump said North Koreas textiles, fishing, information technology, and manufacturing industries were among those the United States could target in terms of its sanctions. September 21, 2017. (Reuters)

On the sidelines: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey will deploy troops in Syria's northern Idlib region as part of a so-called de-escalation agreement brokered by Russia last month.

The "de-escalation" zones, agreed by Turkey, Russia and Iran, would be further discussed in talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during his trip to Ankara next week, Erdogan said in an interview with Reuters while he was in New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly.

Erdogan also said Turkey was considering counter-measures, including imposing sanctions, against Kurdish northern Iraq over a planned referendum.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan (center) speaks during an interview with Reuters Editor-in-Chief Steve Adler (left) and Reuters Chief Correspondent Parisa Hafezi (right) at The Peninsula hotel on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in Manhattan. September 21, 2017.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan (center) speaks during an interview with Reuters Editor-in-Chief Steve Adler (left) and Reuters Chief Correspondent Parisa Hafezi (right) at The Peninsula hotel on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in Manhattan. September 21, 2017. (Reuters)

UNGA General Debate

South Korean President Moon Jae-in
South Korean President Moon Jae-in called for the North Korean nuclear crisis to be handled in a stable manner, so that peace was not destroyed.

Moon told the UN General Assembly sanctions were needed to bring Pyongyang to the negotiating table and force it to give up its nuclear weapons, but Seoul was not seeking North Korea's collapse and the international community was ready to help the country if it stood on the right side of history.


In the meantime, Moon said all countries must strictly adhere to UN sanctions on North Korea and impose tougher steps in the event of new provocations by Pyongyang.
 
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina made a plea for the Rohingya refugees who have poured into her country by the thousands when attacks by Rohingya militants on security posts triggered a Myanmar army military offensive.

Rohingya refugees are unable to return to Myanmar partly because authorities are laying landmines along their stretch of the border to prevent the Rohingyas from returning, Hasina told the international community at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly in New York.

She also laid out a plan for the U.N. to guarantee a safe and dignified return to Myanmar of the 800,000 Rohingyas in Bangladesh.

In her speech to the 72nd session of the General Assembly, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina talked about the Rohingya Muslims plight. September 21, 2017.
In her speech to the 72nd session of the General Assembly, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina talked about the Rohingya Muslims plight. September 21, 2017. (Reuters)

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told the United Nations his country would work to save the Iranian nuclear agreement, because failure to do so would impugn the credibility of the international community.

"Germany will thus work within the E3 + 3 framework to ensure the agreement is strictly implemented and that it is upheld. This is not only about Iran. This is about the credibility of the international community," Gabriel said in his speech to the 72nd General Assembly.

Gabriel also weighed in on North Korean nuclear tests and gave his support for UN Security Council sanctions against the country and leader Kim Jong Un.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

US unilateral sanctions on Iran undermine the Iran nuclear deal, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

"Using unilateral sanctions ... is illegitimate and undermines the collective nature of international efforts. Everyone is witnessing with alarm today the newer and newer restrictions by the US against Iran," Lavrov told the UN General Assembly gathering of world leaders. "They threaten the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action," he added, referring to the 2015 international accord between Iran and six world powers.

Just days before his country goes to the polls, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel addresses the UN General Assembly in New York. September 21, 2017.
Just days before his country goes to the polls, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel addresses the UN General Assembly in New York. September 21, 2017. (Reuters)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday admitted Canada had failed its indigenous people and told the United Nations his government would do better to improve the lives of aboriginals and achieve reconciliation.

Trudeau used his speech to the UN General Assembly to frankly acknowledge the dark history of Canada's colonisation as one of "humiliation, neglect and abuse" and promised to do more to help.

Two years in, many say he is not doing enough to help indigenous Canadians. Trudeau promised to move forward with a review of federal laws and policy, and to support indigenous self-determination.

Wednesday, September 20:

Security Council Meeting on Peacekeeping

The Security Council backed reforms  to reduce inefficiencies, corruption and abuse in the UN's far-flung peacekeeping operations. They asked for annual briefings from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on his initiative to reform peacekeeping.

UN officials have pushed back on the idea that its peacekeeping operations are not cost-efficient. Guterres pointed to 55 operations that have wrapped up over the years, achieving peace in countries around the world.

There are currently 16 UN peacekeeping operations under way, with more than 100,000 personnel, at an annual cost of nearly $8 billion. The UN has said that, adjusted for inflation, the cost to member states has decreased by 17 percent in the past decade by one measure.

Vice President Mike Pence cast the approval vote for the US, saying the UN must be more aggressive in evaluating the effectiveness of its operations. He said all peacekeeping missions must be deployed in support of a political solution to conflicts and have exit strategies. September 20, 2017.
Vice President Mike Pence cast the approval vote for the US, saying the UN must be more aggressive in evaluating the effectiveness of its operations. He said all peacekeeping missions must be deployed in support of a political solution to conflicts and have exit strategies. September 20, 2017. (Reuters)

Violence Against Women Meeting

World leaders meeting at the UN launched a half-billion dollar effort to end violence against women and girls. The effort will fund anti-violence programs that promote prevention, bolster government policies and provide women and girls with improved access to services.

It will take particular aim at human trafficking, femicide and family violence, organisers said.

The initiative of 500 million Euros (US $595 million) was launched by the UN and the EU, which is its main contributor, organisers said.

High Level Meeting on Libya

The UN launched a roadmap for a renewed international effort to break a political stalemate in Libya and end the turmoil that followed the country's 2011 uprising.

The world body's Libya envoy Ghassan Salame set out an "action plan" on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York that proposes amending a 2015 peace deal that quickly stalled.

The UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) established under the December 2015 deal never fully materialised in Tripoli, leaving Libya with three competing governments aligned with rival armed alliances.

"I am also convinced that today there is an opportunity to end a protracted crisis that has caused immense suffering and contributed to the instability beyond Libya's borders. We must all seize this moment," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in an address to key stakeholders.

The United Nations launched a roadmap for a renewed international effort to break a political stalemate in Libya and end the turmoil that followed the countrys 2011 uprising. September 20, 2017.
The United Nations launched a roadmap for a renewed international effort to break a political stalemate in Libya and end the turmoil that followed the countrys 2011 uprising. September 20, 2017. (Reuters)

Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty

On Wednesday, 50 countries signed a treaty to ban nuclear weapons, a pact that the world's nuclear powers spurned but supporters hailed as a historic agreement nonetheless.

Before the day was out, 50 states put their names to the treaty; others can sign later if they like. Guyana, Thailand and the Vatican also have already ratified the treaty, which needs 50 ratifications to take effect among the nations that back it.

They would be barred from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, otherwise acquiring, possessing or stockpiling nuclear weapons "under any circumstances."

"This treaty is an important step towards the universally held goal of a world free of nuclear weapons," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday.

On the sidelines: US and Iran

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson opened the highest-level meeting between US and Iranian officials since the start of the Trump administration.

Tillerson met at the UN with diplomats from the nations that are part of the 2015 nuclear deal, including Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.

The meeting comes as President Donald Trump decides whether to withdraw from the nuclear deal.

The top US diplomat says that no one disagreed that Iran is technically complying but it's a political discussion now about whether to remain in the deal.

He says, "One can almost set the countdown clock to Iran resuming its nuclear activities."

Speaking about the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, US Secretary of State Tillerson says no one disagreed that Iran is technically complying but its a political discussion now about whether to remain in the deal. September 20, 2017.
Speaking about the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, US Secretary of State Tillerson says no one disagreed that Iran is technically complying but its a political discussion now about whether to remain in the deal. September 20, 2017. (Reuters)

On the sidelines: UK and US

British Prime Minister Theresa May met with US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

"We'll be doing a lot of trading with the United Kingdom, and we look forward to it," said Trump.

May added that the defence relationship between theirs two countries was the "closest we have, and it's great that that continues."

Among the various issues UK Prime Minister Theresa May and US President Donald Trump discussed were foreign policy issues, trade, security and defence. September 20, 2017.
Among the various issues UK Prime Minister Theresa May and US President Donald Trump discussed were foreign policy issues, trade, security and defence. September 20, 2017. (Reuters)

US and Africa

US President Donald Trump held multiple bilateral and multilateral meetings with numerous world leaders during the UN General Assembly on Wednesday. 

Hosting a working lunch for African leaders, Trump said the US was deeply disturbed by, and closely monitoring, violence in South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo. He said he would send his U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley to Africa to discuss conflict prevention.

On the sidelines: US and Palestine

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said his meeting with President Donald Trump attested to the US president's seriousness about reaching a Middle East peace deal soon.

"If this is any proof to anything ... it attests to the seriousness of your excellency, Mr. President, to achieve the deal of the century in the Middle East during this year or in the coming months, God willing," Abbas said.

Ahead of a meeting with Abbas, Trump said there is a "pretty good shot" he can broker a deal, but was  short on specifics.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi urged Palestinians to overcome their differences and be ready to co-exist with each other and with Israelis in safety and security.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi urged Palestinians to overcome their differences and be ready to co-exist with each other and with Israelis in safety and security. (Reuters)

Canada

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held multiple bilateral meetings with the leaders of a number of countries at the UN Headquarters on the sidelines of the 72nd United Nations General Assembly.

Some of the world leaders he met with where the Tajikistani President Emomali Rahmon, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno, Panama's President Juan Carlos Varela and Costa Rica's President Luis Guillermo Solis. 

China and Germany

Peace talks, rather than sanctions and military means, should be the top priority to solve the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, agreed the Chinese Foreign Minister and his German counterpart at a meeting on Wednesday.

In response to Gabriel's support for China's "suspension-for-suspension proposal", Wang encouraged Germany to make proactive efforts to promote peace talks to resolve the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue.

The Germany foreign minister agreed that military means will never settle the issue, stressing that the solution to the issue must be found through peaceful ways such as dialogues and negotiations.

UNGA General Debate

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani criticised US President Trump's speech the day before as "ignorant, absurd and hateful rhetoric", "unfit to be heard at the United Nations", while championing the nuclear deal reached by Iran and six states that Trump has called a bad deal.

Rouhani said Iran was committed to adhering to the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), and  added, "It will be a great pity if this agreement were to be destroyed by rogue newcomers to the world of politics."

The pact between Tehran and six world powers, which calls for Iran to curb its nuclear program in return for relief from economic sanctions, is under threat as Trump must decide by Oct. 15 whether to certify Iran is keeping its end of the bargain.

In a news conference after his address to the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, Rouhani said that he did not think Washington would leave the Iran nuclear deal and added that any country which abandoned the pact would isolate and embarrass itself. September 20, 2017.
In a news conference after his address to the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, Rouhani said that he did not think Washington would leave the Iran nuclear deal and added that any country which abandoned the pact would isolate and embarrass itself. September 20, 2017. (Reuters)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas called on the UN to pursue efforts to "bring an end to Israeli occupation of the state of Palestine within a set timeframe."

Addressing the UN General Assembly, Abbas warned that if the two-state solution were to be destroyed, Palestinians would have no choice but to "continue the struggle and demand full rights for all inhabitants of historic Palestine".

The Palestinian leader also indirectly criticised  the American Ambassador David Friedman, who had described Israel's occupation of Palestinian land as an 'alleged occupation' in an interview.

Abbas expressed 'relief' at the agreement reached with rival, Hamas, which has dismantled its Gaza based government and committed to reconciliation with the help of Egyptian mediation.

In his speech to the General Assembly, Abbas accused Israel of flagrant disregard for the two-state solution and warned that Palestinians would be compelled to review the entire peace process, but stopped short of saying he would abandon it. September 20, 2017.
In his speech to the General Assembly, Abbas accused Israel of flagrant disregard for the two-state solution and warned that Palestinians would be compelled to review the entire peace process, but stopped short of saying he would abandon it. September 20, 2017. (Reuters)

British Prime Minister Theresa May

Members of the United Nations must confront the "challenges that go to the heart of who we are as nations," British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday (September 20).

Among those challenges, May said, are the ongoing civil war in Syria and the ongoing missile launches of Kim Jong Un in North Korea.

May committed to funding the endeavours of the world body but said the UN must "win our trust by proving to us and the people we represent".

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Talking to world leaders on Wednesday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said dialogue with North Korea is futile, and that strict implementation of sanctions is the only way to curb the country's nuclear ambitions.

Speaking at the 72nd session of the UN GeneralAssembly, Abe warned the international community that North Korea is at the verge of attaining hydrogen bombs and intercontinental ballistic missiles, and that time is running out.

He said that all UN member states need to come together to make "North Korea abandon all nuclear and ballistic missile programs in a complete, verifiable, and irreversible manner."

Myanmar Vice President Henry Van Thio

Addressing the assembly, Vice President Henry Van Thio told the UN that security forces in his country's Rakhine State, from which hundreds of thousands of people have recently fled, have been instructed to take "full measures" to avoid collateral damage and harming innocent civilians.

Van Thio said it was not only Rohingya Muslims who had fled, but members of other minority groups too. He said human rights violations would be dealt with "in accordance with strict norms of justice."

In his address to the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, Myanmar Vice President Henry Van Thio said the government recognized the need to ensure humanitarian assistance was provided to all those in need without discrimination. September 20, 2017.
In his address to the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, Myanmar Vice President Henry Van Thio said the government recognized the need to ensure humanitarian assistance was provided to all those in need without discrimination. September 20, 2017. (Reuters)

Tuesday, September 19:

On the sidelines: 

Turkey, UK and France

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held multiple bilateral meetings on the sidelines on Tuesday during his time in New York for the 72nd UN General Assembly. Some of the leaders with whom he met were the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Turkish officials said the Kurdish referendum for independence in northern Iraq was high on the agenda.

Meeting with multiple world leaders on the sidelines, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also sat down with French President Emmanuel Macron to talk about the now-suspended referendum in northern Iraq,September 19, 2017.
Meeting with multiple world leaders on the sidelines, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also sat down with French President Emmanuel Macron to talk about the now-suspended referendum in northern Iraq,September 19, 2017. (Reuters)

Russia and UK

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his British counterpart Boris Johnson met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Russian foreign ministry released a video showing an informal conversation between Lavrov and Johnson ahead of their official talks.

Lavrov and Johnson spoke over phone before and discussed a possible normalisation of bilateral ties, the fight against terrorism and Syria.

US and Qatar

US President Donald Trump and Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani sat down on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly to talk about the ongoing Gulf crisis.

Trump said he was confident a diplomatic dispute between Qatar and its Arab neighbours could be solved and offered to mediate a resolution.

Trump said he had "a very strong feeling" the dispute would "be solved pretty quickly."

Sheikh al Thani said Trump's "interference will help a lot."

US President Trump said on Tuesday he thought the dispute between Qatar and some of its Arab neighbours would be resolved quickly. September 20, 2017.
US President Trump said on Tuesday he thought the dispute between Qatar and some of its Arab neighbours would be resolved quickly. September 20, 2017. (Reuters)

China and France

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi exchanged views on the bilateral relations and regional hot-spot issues with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.

Wang said to Le Drian that China is willing to work with France to deepen bilateral cooperation, enhance  collaboration in coping with climate change and promote the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

With regarding the situation on the Korean Peninsula, Wang said China is firmly opposed to the nuclear and missile programs of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) , and is determined to push for de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Le Drian said that military means is not a solution to the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula.

The purpose of sanctions is for negotiations, he said. Only through dialog and consultations and by diplomatic means can the nuclear issue of the Korean Peninsula be ultimately solved.

China and Britain

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi exchanged views on the bilateral relations and regional hot-spot issues with his British counterpart Boris Johnson on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly's 72nd session.

Wang said this year marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations at ambassadorial level between China and the UK.

The two countries should continue to work together to deepen practical cooperation in order to carry forward the "golden era" of bilateral relations, said Wang.

The two sides also exchanged views on the situation on the Korean Peninsula and in Afghanistan.

UNGA general debate

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

In his speech to the UN General Assembly, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan brought attention to the problematic nature of the Kurdish referendum in north Iraq, saying that Baghdad and the regional government needed to achieve compromises "on the basis of territorial integrity and the realisation of the ideals to build a common future” and that they "could "cause new crises and conflicts in the region must be avoided."

Turning his focus to the Myanmar crisis, he said the international community "has not given a good account of itself" regarding the "humanitarian plight." He described the atrocities against the Rohingya Muslims as "collective punishment" and said if the tragedy was not stopped, "the history of humanity will face the embarrassment of another dark stain."

On the Syrian conflict, Erdogan said  "a civilisation is being annihilated together with civilians and innocent children."

"Before the whole world, I hereby call on the countries and the international organisations, which have put all the burden of the 3.2 million people on Turkey's shoulders, to fulfil the promises they have made," the Turkish president said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan used his UNGA general debate speech to bring attention to various issues including the now-suspended Kurdish referendum in northern Iraq and humanitarian crisis caused by the Syrian civil war. September 19, 2017.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan used his UNGA general debate speech to bring attention to various issues including the now-suspended Kurdish referendum in northern Iraq and humanitarian crisis caused by the Syrian civil war. September 19, 2017. (AP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

The Iran nuclear deal should be changed to eliminate provisions removing restrictions on Tehran's atomic programme over time or it should be cancelled, said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"Change it, or cancel it. Fix it, or nix it," Netanyahu said. He also said Israel "will act to prevent Iran from establishing permanent military bases in Syria for its air, sea and ground forces."

Egypt's Sisi urges Palestinians to co-exist with Israelis

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi urged Palestinians to overcome their differences and be ready to co-exist with each other and with Israelis in safety and security.

"I tell the Palestinian people it's extremely important ... to overcome the differences and not to lose opportunities and to be ready to accept co-existence with the other, with Israelis in safety and security," Sisi told the annual UN General Assembly.

Addressing the Israelis, Sisi said: "We have an excellent experience in Egypt in peace with you for longer than 40 years."

"We can repeat this experience and this excellent step once again - the peace and security of the Israeli citizens together with the peace and security of the Palestinian citizens," Sisi said.

French President Emmanuel Macron

Speaking at the UNGA, French President Emmanuel Macron hit back at US President Donald Trump, staunchly defending the "good" Iran nuclear deal saying that those who did not respect it were irresponsible.

"Renouncing it would be a grave error, not respecting it would be irresponsible, because it is a good accord that is essential to peace at a time where the risk of an infernal conflagration cannot be excluded."

Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani

Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani  renewed a call for "unconditional dialogue" to end a political crisis pitting his country against four Arab states.

Sheikh Tamim renewed the call "for an unconditional dialogue based on mutual respect for sovereignty."

He also appealed "to complete national reconciliation and unify positions and words in confronting the dangers and challenges facing the Palestinian cause and the future of the Palestinian people."

In his address to the UN General Assembly, Qatars Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani renewed a call for unconditional dialogue to end a political crisis pitting his country against four Arab states, September 19, 2017.
In his address to the UN General Assembly, Qatars Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani renewed a call for unconditional dialogue to end a political crisis pitting his country against four Arab states, September 19, 2017. (Reuters)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

In his first address to the annual 193-member UN General Assembly since taking office in January, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed on Tuesday for statesmanship to avoid war with North Korea and criticised world leaders who stoke resentment over refugees for political gain.

He said the crisis over North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programme must be solved through a political process. "This is the time for statesmanship," said Guterres. "We must not sleepwalk our way into war."

Guterres also spoke of being "pained to see the way refugees and migrants have been stereotyped and scapegoated – and to see political figures stoke resentment in search of electoral gain."

Guterres also warned of the dangers of climate change and urged world leaders to implement the 2015 Paris climate agreement to reduce emissions "with ever greater ambition."

"It is high time to get off the path of suicidal emissions. We know enough today to act. The science is unassailable," Guterres said.

On counterterrorism, Guterres said he plans to convene next year the first gathering of heads of counterterrorism agencies of UN member states to forge a new international counterterrorism partnership.

US President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump, in a debut speech to the UN General Assembly, said that "it is far past time for the nations of the world to confront" Kim Jong-un and said that Kim's "reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons" poses a threat to "the entire world with an unthinkable loss of human life."

Trump argued that individual nations should act in their own self-interest, yet rally together when faced with a common threat. 

President Trump assured the UN that the United States would not abdicate its leadership position in the world but needed other countries to contribute more. "I will always put American first. Just like you, the leaders of your countries, should and always put your countries first."

"The US will forever be a great friend to the world and especially to its allies," the Republican president said. "But we can no longer be taken advantage of or enter into a one-sided deal in which the United States gets nothing in return."

"To put it simply, we meet at a time of both immense promise and of great peril," Trump said. "It is entirely up to us whether we lift the world to new heights or let it fall into a valley of disrepair."

Monday, September 18:

Event on UN reform 

More than 120 countries were invited to a special session on Monday addressing UN reforms ahead of the UN General Assembly on Tuesday. 

In his first speech to the UN, Trump criticised the institution for not reaching its full potential due to bureaucracy and mismanagement. 

He called for "truly bold reforms" of the world body so it could be a greater force for world peace.

Trump emphasised that no member state should shoulder a disproportionate share of the burden, and ended by saying that through working together and reform, the UN would emerge as a stronger and more effective force for peace. 

Also speaking at the special session, Guterres said that the UN must become more "nimble, effective, flexible and efficient" in its efforts to serve the people it supports and those who support it.

"We must do so keenly aware of our obligation to live up to the values of the UN Charter," said Guterres.

TRT World 's Jon Brain reports from New York.

Meeting on climate change

As the US stands by its plans to abandon the Paris climate pact without a renegotiation favourable to Washington, Guterres and climate change activist Al Gore held a high-level meeting on climate change.

"Climate change is not a distant problem for future generations. It is here, it is now, and we need to deal with it," Guterres said in his opening remarks.

Sexual exploitation and abuse is not a problem of peacekeeping, it is a problem of the entire United Nations, the UN chief said before detailing a four-point plan on how to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse committed by those serving the UN. September 18, 2017.
Sexual exploitation and abuse is not a problem of peacekeeping, it is a problem of the entire United Nations, the UN chief said before detailing a four-point plan on how to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse committed by those serving the UN. September 18, 2017. (Reuters)

Meeting on the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse 

"Sexual exploitation and abuse has no place in our world. It is a global menace and it must end," Guterres said on the issue.

UN peacekeeping missions have been beset by accusations of sexual abuse. In 2015, the United Nations reported 99 such allegations against staff members across the UN system.

Praising the work of peacekeepers, Guterres added, "Contrary to the information spreading that this is a question related to our peacekeeping operations, it is necessary to say that the majority of the cases of sexual exploitation and abuse are done by the civilian organisations of the United Nations, and not by peacekeeping operations."

Syria ministerial meeting 

Several key ministers and diplomats met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly as part of the ministerial discussion on Syria. 

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini, Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed al Jubeir and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson were among the 14 countries in attendance.

Countries opposed to Bashar al Assad will not support the reconstruction of Syria until there is a political transition "away from Assad," Johnson said after the meeting.

Myanmar ministerial meeting 

In a ministerial meeting hosted by the British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Myanmar, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said that the US urged the Myanmar government to end military operations in Rakhine state, grant humanitarian access and commit to aiding the safe return of civilians to their homes. 

"People are still at risk of being attacked or killed, humanitarian aid is not reaching the people who need it, and innocent civilians are still fleeing across the border to Bangladesh," Haley said in a statement.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (C) meets Indias Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj (L) and Japans Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Kono (R) during the UNGA in New York, September 18, 2017.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (C) meets Indias Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj (L) and Japans Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Kono (R) during the UNGA in New York, September 18, 2017. (Reuters)

On the sidelines: India, US and Japan 

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj held a trilateral meeting with her US and Japanese counterparts, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono. The trio discussed issues of mutual interest, including the need for ensuring freedom of navigation, respect for international law and peaceful resolution of disputes.

On the sidelines: US and China 

Trump had a telephone call with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, where they both committed to "maximising pressure on North Korea," amid an escalating crisis over Pyongyang's ballistic and nuclear weapons programmes.

"The two leaders committed to maximising pressure on North Korea through vigorous enforcement of United Nations Security Council resolutions," the White House said.

On the sidelines: US and France 

US President Donald Trump met  French President Emmanuel Macron on the fringes of the UN General Assembly on Monday. 

"We're going to be discussing several issues of common interest," said Macron, such as security, the fight against nuclear proliferation and addressing major global conflicts.

Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet in New York ahead of the General Assembly. Trump has described peace between Israelis and Palestinians as “the ultimate deal, September 18, 2017.
Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet in New York ahead of the General Assembly. Trump has described peace between Israelis and Palestinians as “the ultimate deal, September 18, 2017. (Reuters)

On the sidelines: US and Israel 

In a bilateral meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York, Trump said on Monday he believed "we really have a chance" to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians."

“Peace between the Palestinians and Israel would be a fantastic achievement, and we are giving it an absolute go."

On the sidelines: US and Latin America

At a dinner with Latin American leaders on the fringes of the UN General Assembly, Trump said the Venezuelan people were starving and their country was collapsing.                                                      

He said he wanted a restoration of democracy in Venezuela soon, warning the United States might take additional measures to apply pressure on the country. He called for a full restoration of democracy and political freedoms in Venezuela and said, "We want it to happen very soon."

The top Russian and US diplomats met in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, September 17, 2017.
The top Russian and US diplomats met in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, September 17, 2017. (AP)

Sunday, September 17:

On the sidelines: US and Russia 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson discussed cooperation on the Syrian crisis, Middle East issues, and the agreement to bring peace to Ukraine in a meeting on Sunday, Lavrov's spokeswoman said.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a reporter that "the meeting was on cooperation in the Syria crisis, Middle East issues and the Minsk agreement."

United Nations General Assembly President Miroslav Lajcak, right, and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres before the start of the 72nd regular session of the UN General Assembly on September 12, 2017.
United Nations General Assembly President Miroslav Lajcak, right, and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres before the start of the 72nd regular session of the UN General Assembly on September 12, 2017. (AP)

Tuesday, September 12:

The United Nations General Assembly opened its 72nd session, with an emphasis on striving for peace and a decent life for all on a sustainable planet.

In his first address as the president of the General Assembly, Miroslav Lajcak emphasised that the UN was created for people. 

“The people who need the UN the most are not sitting in this hall today. They are not involved in the negotiation of resolutions. They do not take the floor at high-level events. It is one of the tasks of the General Assembly to make sure that their voices can still be heard.”

Source: TRTWorld and agencies