New York–The United Nations General Assembly opened its 71st session in New York with the participation of head of states and representatives of its member states.
The delegation of Saudi Arabia to the summit was headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior.
Upon his arrival, the crown prince was received by Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon.
The summit opened with a speech from the President of the General Assembly, Peter Thomson.
In his eighth and final speech as president of the United States, Barack Obama stressed that the only way to end the war in Syria is through diplomacy.
The president said: “In a place like Syria, where there’s no ultimate military victory to be won, we’re going to have to pursue the hard work of diplomacy that aims to stop the violence, and deliver aid to those in need, and support those who pursue a political settlement and can see those who are not like themselves as worthy of dignity and respect.”
Concerning the Palestinian cause, Obama pointed out that Israelis and Palestinians will be better off if Palestinians reject incitement and recognize the legitimacy of Israel, and if Israel realizes that it cannot continue to occupy and build settlements on Palestinian land.
In his speech, Obama made an indirect threat to Iran and North Korea. He praised Iran’s agreement to constraints on its nuclear program, while he criticized North Korea for its nuclear tests.
“When North Korea tests a bomb that endangers all of us. And any country that breaks this basic bargain must face consequences. And those nations with these weapons, like the United States, have a unique responsibility to pursue the path of reducing our stockpiles, and reaffirming basic norms like the commitment to never test them again,” Obama said.
The U.S. President also directed criticism at Russia, saying that if it continues to interfere in the affairs of its neighbors, it may be popular at home and might lessen its stature overtime making its borders less secure.
He also addressed poverty saying: “We can only eliminate extreme poverty if the sustainable development goals that we have set are more than words on paper. Human ingenuity now gives us the capacity to feed the hungry and give all of our children — including our girls — the education that is the foundation for opportunity in our world.”
Obama said that there is a lot more to be done to close the gap between rich and poor nations around the globe, and that despite all the developments, people lost their trust in advanced economies and institutions.
He pointed out that globalization and global integration led to collision of cultures. He added: “We see liberal societies express opposition when women choose to cover themselves. We see protests responding to Western newspaper cartoons that caricature the Prophet Mohammed… We see Russia attempting to recover lost glory through force… And in Europe and the United States, you see people wrestle with concerns about immigration and changing demographics.”
The U.S. President recounted the progress made in the past eight years: “From the depths of the greatest financial crisis of our time, we coordinated our response to avoid further catastrophe and return the global economy to growth. We’ve taken away terrorist safe havens, strengthened the nonproliferation regime, and resolved the Iranian nuclear issue through diplomacy. We opened relations with Cuba, helped Colombia end Latin America’s longest war, and we welcome a democratically elected leader of Myanmar to this Assembly… And we have made international institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund more representative, while establishing a framework to protect our planet from the ravages of climate change.”
For his part, the U.N. Sec-Gen said in his opening speech that the U.N. suspended any aid convoys after the latest attack on a U.N.-Syrian Arab Red Crescent aid convoy which seemed deliberate.
He praised the efforts of aid workers: “The humanitarians delivering life-saving aid were heroes. Those who bombed them were cowards.”
He added that during the conflict in Syria many innocent people have been killed by a number of groups, including the regime.
The Secretary-General said: “Just when we think it cannot get any worse, the bar of depravity sinks lower.”
Prince of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said that the Security Council holds historical responsibility to stop the barbaric killing of the Syrian people. He added that the Syrian regime is now importing fighters and militias and holds a slogan of “either al-Assad or they’ll burn the whole country.”
Tamim blamed the international community for failing to protect civilians in Syria and stood idle as the citizens of Daraya were being killed and displaced by the regime. He added that the international community’s negligence empowered the insurgents in Yemen.
The prince of Qatar said not only Israel rejects international resolutions, but also tries to impose settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
He concluded his speech by saying that terrorism should not be linked or identified with a certain faith or culture.
“The double standards handling of this phenomenon or linking it to a certain faith or culture, or absolving governments, who practice terrorism from being described as terrorist, would complicate the efforts to uproot the phenomena and reinforce the pretexts used by the terrorists,” said the Prince of Qatar.
Addressing the assembly for the first time as President of Brazil, Michel Tamer said: “Impeaching a President is certainly not a trivial matter in a democratic regime. But there is no democracy without rule of law – without rules applicable to all, including the most powerful. This is what Brazil is showing the world.”
In August, Tamer was elected as president after the Brazilian National Congress voted for him. He added: “Such a process took place in absolute respect to the constitutional order. Impeaching a President is certainly not a trivial matter in a democratic regime. But there is no democracy without rule of law – without rules applicable to all, including the most powerful. This is what Brazil is showing the world.”
He also highlighted that the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games held in Rio proved that nations can come together in an atmosphere of peace and harmony, and that for the first time ever, a delegation of refugees competed in the Games.