UN General Assembly 2018: All the latest updates

World leaders are in New York City to take part in the General Debate’s second day of the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). 

The Iran nuclear deal, a response to the Rohingya crisis, and the future of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) are some of the issues expected to take centre stage.

On Wednesday, US President Donald Trump chairs a UN Security Council meeting with the world’s major players. Discussions will focus on nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and several adversaries of the West will likely be in focus – including Iran and North Korea.

Follow live updates:

Wednesday, September 26

Rouhani to Trump: ‘Stop bullying Iran’    

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday urged President Donald Trump to “stop bullying” Tehran into submitting into the demands of the US.

In a  press conference with Western media, Rouhani also said it is “clear” during his meeting with world leaders at the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, that Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal has “isolated” the US.

“The US decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal was not agreed upon by other parties. It is considered a mistake by other countries,” Rouhani said in an unprecedented press conference with Western media. 

“One day, the US will return to the nuclear deal. The US cannot continue this process. This is not in the interest of the US, Iran and other parties,” he said. “It was our decision to try to isolate the US on this issue of the nuclear deal.”

What Iran wants is for the US to “return to what is legal and stand by the UN Security Council resolution” on the nuclear deal, and “stop bullying” his country, Rouhani said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Rouhani’s foreign minister Javad Zarif referred to the reimposition of US sanctions as an act of “unprecedented vengeance”.

Zarif said the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal is “unlawful and unjustified”.

Bolivia’s Evo Morales slams US ‘meddling’ in Iran, Venezuela  

With US President Donald Trump listening, Bolivia’s President Evo Morales has lashed out at the United States and accused Trump’s administration of meddling in Iran and Venezuela.

Morales also said the US government has shown “contempt” for multilateralism and has no interest in upholding democracy.

Trump was presiding over a UN Security Council meeting on Wednesday.

Morales said that if the US upheld democracy “it would not have financed coup d’etats and supported dictators” or threatened democratically elected governments as it has in Venezuela.

He also charged that “the United States could not care less about human rights or justice,” citing its alleged promotion of the “use of torture” and separation of migrant parents and children who were put “in cages.”

Trump made no comment when Morales finished. [AP]

China’s foreign minister rejects Trump’s accusation   

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Wednesday dismissed the claim of US President Donald Trump that Beijing is trying to influence the outcome of the midterm US elections in November. 

In his statement before the UN Security Council, Wang said that it is China’s long-standing policy “of non-interference of the domestic affairs of other countries”. 

“This is a tradition of Chinese foreign policy. Our observance of this principle has received acclaim in the international community. We did not and will never interfere in any country’s domestic affairs. We refuse to accept in unwarranted accusations against China, and we call upon other countries to also observe the purposes of the UN charter not to interference with other country’s domestic affairs”.     

Meanwhile, Wang also defended the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, praising it as an “achievement of multilateralism”.

“There is no international agreement that is perfect. The JCPOA has been unanimously endorsed by the Security Council. What happened in the past three years shows the JCPOA is a viable agreement,” he said, referring to the deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).       

Wang urged Iran to “continue to fulfill” its commitment to the deal, adding that “legitimate rights” of other countries to trade with Iran “should be respected”.

Wang also praised the progress being made in the Korean Peninsula, and expressed its support of the agreement reached between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore in June. 

“We call on all parties to seize the opportunities into concrete actions.”

Trump accuses China of election meddling  

US President Donald Trump has accused China of seeking to meddle in the November 6 midterm elections, saying Beijing did not want the Republican Party to do well because of his stance on trade.

“China has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 election, coming up in November. Against my administration,” Trump told the UN Security Council meeting on Wednesday.

Trump did not provide any evidence for the allegation. China did not immediately respond to the remarks by Trump, who was chairing the Council meeting.

“They do not want me or us to win, because I am the first president ever to challenge China on trade and we are winning on trade, we are winning at every level. We don’t want them to meddle or interfere in our upcoming election,” Trump said. [Reuters]    

Macron: US withdrawal from Iran deal resulted in a ‘serious crisis of confidence’  

French President Emanuel Macron on Wednesday said that a “serious crisis of confidence” has emerged after US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

In his message before the UN Security Council, Macron said that while the 2015 deal is “imperfect”, it ensures that Iran would not be able to obtain nuclear weapons.

Since the deal was signed, the “pathways of the signatories of the JCPOA have diverged…but we still, all of us here, retain the same objective of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and guaranteeing strict international control on the peaceful use of their nuclear programme”.     

Trump: Iran cannot be allowed to procure nuclear weapons 

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday focused his address at the UN Security Council, telling world leaders that the US will ensure that Iran will never acquire nuclear bomb.

“The Iranian regime exports violence, terror and turmoil,” he said, accusing Tehran of procuring materials to advance its ballistic missile programme.  

“A regime with this track record must never be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon,” Trump said, as he justified his decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal, and to reimpose economic sanctions.   

Trump said that the deal allowed Iran “to continue its path towards a bomb” and gave Iran a “cash lifeline when they needed it the most”. 

But Trump also thanked Iran, Russia and Syria for “substantially slowing down” their attack on the rebel-held province of Idlib.   

Trump considering ‘all options’ on Venezuela

All options are on the table with regards to Venezuela, US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday in New York, a day after his administration ratcheted up sanctions on the inner circle of President Nicolas Maduro.

“All options are on the table. Every one. The strong onesáand the less than strong ones. Every option. And you know what I mean by strong. Every option is on the table with respect to Venezuela,” Trump said.

Trump called for the restoration of democracy in Venezuela during a speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, shortly after his government slapped sanctions on key figures in Caracas, including Maduro’s wife. 

Trump calls for two-state solution after meeting Netanyahu

US President Donald Trump will chair the UN Security Council meeting on weapons of mass destruction. North Korea’s foreign minister, unexpectedly, joined the meeting along with his Chinese counterpart. 

Trump said after a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he wants a “two-state solution” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

Germany and Saudi Arabia agree to end diplomatic row

  • Germany and Saudi Arabia have agreed to end a prolonged diplomatic row that prompted the kingdom to pull its ambassador from Berlin and punish German firms operating in the country.

  • The spat was triggered last November when Germany’s foreign minister at the time, Sigmar Gabriel, condemned “adventurism” in the Middle East, in comments that were widely seen as an attack on increasingly assertive Saudi policies, notably in Yemen.

  • The comments led Riyadh to withdraw its ambassador and freeze out German companies, particularly in the lucrative healthcare sector.

  • Standing alongside his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir at the United Nations on Tuesday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas spoke of “misunderstandings” that had undermined what were otherwise “strong and strategic ties” between the countries, saying “we sincerely regret this”.

  • “We’ll do our best to make this partnership with the kingdom even stronger than before,” he added.

  • Iran’s Rouhani: US sanctions is ‘economic terrorism’  

  • Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that world security is under threat by some states’ “recklessness and disregard” of international values and institutions. 
  • “Confronting multilateralism is not a sign of strength. Rather, it is a symptom of the weakness of the intellect. It betrays an inability in understanding a complex and interconnected world,” he said. 
  • Rouhani said that it is “unfortunate” that the world is witnessing rulers “who think they can secure their interest better…by fomenting extremist, nationalism and through xenophobic tendencies resembling Nazi disposition.” 
  • In his speech, Rouhani also lashed out at US President Donald Trump saying he is seeking an “overthrow” of the Iranian leadership, while calling the unilateral US sanctions as a form of “economic terrorism”.  

Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim: Reject ‘rule of force’ to resolve disputes

  • Qatar’s leader Sheikh Tamim called on the UN General Assembly on Tuesday to reject “the rule of force” to resolve political and security disputes in the world and the Middle East.
  • It is the second time that Sheikh Tamim addressed the UN meeting since the Saudi Arabia-led blockade of the Gulf state in 2017, which he said is a “flagrant violation” of international law.
  • In his speech, Tamim said that since the blockade started, it has been revealed that there was a “pre-arranged campaign of incitement” against his country.  But he said that during the same period of the blockade, Qatar’s economy continued its growth. 

Jordan’s King Abdullah: No to ‘One-State’ solution in Israel

  • Jordan’s King Abdullah has called on world leaders to work together to put the Israeli-Palestinian peace process “back on track”.
  • The Jordanian leader said that the “key crisis” in the Middle East is the “long denial of a Palestinian state”. “The only path to a comprehensive, lasting peace in the region is a two-state solution,” he said, adding that a one-state is an “abandonment” of peace.

Macron urges ‘dialogue and multilateralism’ on Iran

  • French President Emmanuel Macron called Tuesday for “dialogue and multilateralism” on Iran, in a thinly veiled response to Trump’s push for tough, US-led sanctions.
  • The French leader credited the 2015 accord rejected by Trump with curbing the nuclear programme of Iran.
  • Macron also said unilateralism will not work to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. “What can resolve the crisis between Israel and Palestine? Not unilateral initiatives, nor trampling on the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to legitimate peace. There is no credible alternative to the two-state solution.”

Turkey’s Erdogan calls for political solution in Syria   

  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on all parties to support “just and sustainable political solution” in Syria with constructive approach, to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.

  • Last week, Turkey and Russia reached a deal to establish a demilitarised zone in Syria’s Idlib province to prevent bloodshed in the rebel-held territory where nearly three million people live.

  • “Those who equip terrorists with tens of thousands of trucks and cargo planes, load of arms for sake of tactical interests will most definitely feel sorrow in the future,” he also said.      

Turkey’s Erdogan: UN failing to act on Palestine, Myanmar   

  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has renounced the United Nations Security for “standing idle to the oppression” in Myanmar, Palestine and Bosnia among other nations.  

  • In a speech before the UN on Tuesday, Erdogan said  that “those who remained silent on the oppression of the Palestinians” are only encouraging the oppressors.

  • “Even if the whole world turns its back, Turkey will continue to be on the side of the oppressed Palestinians,” he said.     

Trump addresses UN: Trade imbalance with China unacceptable   

  • US President Donald Trump has declared that America’s trade deficit with China is “unacceptable”.  

  • In a speech before the UN, Trump said that the world trading system “is in dire need of change”, complaining that over the last two decades the US has suffered $13 trillion in trade deficit with China. 

  • He said Beijing has engaged in theft of intellectual properties, while the US faced thousands of job losses.  

Trump addresses UN: Iran should be isolated 

  • US President Donald Trump has asked all nations to isolate Iran’s leadership, and vowed that more sanctions will follow after the resumption of oil sanctions on November 5.  

  • Trump said that Iranian leaders are “sowing chaos, death and destruction” in the Middle East.  

  • “Iran’s leaders plunder the nations resources to enrich themselves and to spread mayhem across the Middle East and far beyond,” he said. 

  • Trump said Iran’s neighbours have paid a “heavy toll” for the region’s agenda of “aggression and expansion”. 

Trump: US has never been ‘stronger, safer, richer’ 

  • US President Donald Trump said that in less than two years since his election, his country has never been “stronger, safer and richer”.  

  • Speaking Tuesday at the UN General Assembly in New York, Trump also highlighted his achievement with North Korea, but added that sanctions will continue until denuclearisation is carried out.

UN’s Guterres: We are not doing enough on global warming

During his speech, the UN chief also warned against the rise of populism around the world [Reuters]
  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that the world has reached “a pivotal moment” in global warming and risks runaway climate change if leaders don’t act in the next two years.

  • Speaking Tuesday at the UN General Assembly in New York, Guterres told world leaders that they are not doing enough to combat what he calls “a direct existential threat” that is moving faster than people are working to combat it.

  • He’s calling for making sure the international Paris climate change agreement is implemented. US. President Donald Trump has announced he’s withdrawing his country from the pact.
    Guterres is planning a climate summit next year.

UN chief: World suffering from ‘trust deficit disorder’

  • The world is suffering from “trust deficit disorder,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in remarks ahead of world leaders’ speeches at the UN headquarters in New York.  

  • People are losing faith in political establishments, power relations are unclear and “democratic principles are under siege,” Guterres said.

  • “The world is more connected, yet societies are becoming more fragmented. Challenges are growing outward, while many people are turning inward,” the UN chief added.

Trump on Twitter: no meeting with Rouhani

  • US President Donald Trump has tweeted to say he will not be meeting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during the United Nations General Assembly in New York, US.  

  • Despite requests, I have no plans to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Maybe someday in the future. I am sure he is an absolutely lovely man!,” Trump said. 

  • Rouhani already told NBC News on Monday there would not be a meeting. 

  • “Naturally, if someone is keen on having a meeting and holding dialogue and creating progress in relationships, that person would not use the tool of sanctions and threats [and bring] to bear all of its power against another government and nation,” the Iranian leader said.

  • Here are some of the key issues expected to feature heavily at this year’s General Assembly. 

  • The Rohingya: Countries are divided on an appropriate response to the Rohingya crisis, with US Ambassador Nikki Haley calling for strong and immediate action against Myanmar’s leadership and Chinese ambassador Wu Haitao urging a softer approach based on “constructive assistance”.

  • Syria: As the battle for Idlib looms, UN officials have called on all parties to ensure that civilian casualties are avoided, but there are no signs of these warnings being heeded.

  • Iran nuclear deal: Relations between the US and Iran are at a low since Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal in May. Meanwhile, Europe is trying to keep the agreement afloat. 

  • Read our full analysis on what to expect at the 2018 general assembly here.

New Zealand’s ‘First baby’

  • New Zealand‘s Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern made history when she brought her three-month-old daughter into the assembly hall on Monday evening. 

  • Ardern called bringing her baby into the meeting a “practical decision”.

  • “Neve is actually nearby me most of the time in New Zealand, she’s just not always caught. But here, when she’s awake, we try and keep her with me. So that was the occasion,” the New Zealand Herald quoted her as saying.

  • The head of state’s partner, Clarke Gayford, earlier tweeted a picture of the ID badge of Ms Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford – New Zealand’s “first baby”. 

What is the General Assembly? 

  • The General Assembly is the main deliberative and policymaking organ of the UN. It is the only UN body with equal representation, meaning each country has one vote. 

  • The General Assembly convenes once a year for three months starting in mid-September and, if necessary, again from January.

  • The event that draws much of the media’s attention is the general debate, which kicks off on Tuesday.

  • During the general debate, which is scheduled to last for nine days, world leaders take turns delivering speeches about the issues that matter to their governments. 

  • Representatives from each of the 193 UN member states get 15 minutes in principle to speak. Here’s a schedule. 

  • Some of the most memorable moments in the history of the general debate are Benjamin Netanyahu’s “red line” speech, former Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi’s 96-minute speech during which he ripped a copy of the UN charter, and Trump calling North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “rocket man“. 

Meet Maria Fernanda Espinosa: UN General Assembly president

  • Maria Fernanda Espinosa is the first woman ever from Latin America and the Caribbean to preside over the General Assembly.

  • Before the general debate, Al Jazeera spoke to the Ecuadorian about her work and her message to world leaders about the week ahead. 

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