German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron are leading attempts to mediate between the US and Iran. Tensions in the Gulf region dominated the agenda in New York.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened the General Assembly in New York Tuesday by warning of the impending danger of a divided world, with the United States and China creating rival currencies, trade, financial rules "and their own zero sum geopolitical and military strategies."
As world leaders such as US President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro then stepped up to the podium, Iran and the environment took center stage.
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged the US and Iran to resume negotiations over the ongoing tensions in the Middle East, most recently with the attack on a Saudi Arabian oil plant. The US, along with Germany, France and Britain, have all blamed Iran for the attack. However, Macron called for more dialogue, especially on the 2015 multinational nuclear deal (JCPOA).
He said it would be a "lost opportunity" if Iranian President Hassan Rouhani did not meet with US President Donald Trump during UN week.
Merkel was hoping to smooth over differences on the 2015 nuclear pact. The US withdrew from the agreement at Trump's behest and reimposed sanctions, leading Iran to resume the enrichment of uranium to levels that had been prohibited by the accord.
"I would welcome talks between the United States and Iran, but it won't work that all the sanctions are first taken off the table and then there are talks," Merkel said after meeting both Trump and Rouhani separately on the sidelines.
Speaking to the press earlier in the day, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said he was open to "small changes, additions or amendments" to the deal.
Trump, however, denounced what he called Iran's "bloodlust," and showed little willingness to compromise.
"As long as Iran's menacing behavior continues, sanctions will not be lifted. They will be tightened," Trump told the Assembly.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, meanwhile, urged Iran's president to make "progress" in securing the freedom of dual nationals held in the Middle Eastern country.
In particular, the UK is stepping up efforts to release British-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been imprisoned in Tehran since 2016.
Johnson has been accused of worsening Zaghari-Ratcliffe's predicament by incorrectly saying she was training journalists. The now PM said this while he served as Britain's foreign minister.
Macron encouraged the global community to be bolder with climate measures to achieve carbon neutrality and to work together to help save the Amazon.
While many called for united action on climate change, Brazilian President Bolsonaro took a different view.
Bolsonaro blamed a "deceitful" media for "misleading" the world on the Amazon fires. He also felt that global interference on the issue was an attack on Brazil that had "aroused our patriotic sentiments."
EU migrant crisis
In his speech at the congress, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was heavily critical of the European Union over the ongoing migrant crisis, even showing the evocative image of Alan Kurdi, a 3-year-old boy who drowned as his family attempted to cross the Mediterranean Sea, seeking asylum in the European Union.
He said the EU had not upheld its end of the 2016 EU-Turkey migration deal, which saw people whose asylum applications had been rejected shipped to Turkey in exchange for "legal" Syrian refugees. Under the initial terms, the European Union had promised €6 billion to help Turkey support displaced people sheltered there.
"We were left alone in our selfless sacrifice toward asylum-seekers," Erdogan added.
Patriotism vs globalization
President Trump, who is facing the threat of impeachment in Washington over potential abuse of power, said protecting national frontiers maintains human rights. "When you undermine border security, you are undermining human rights and human dignity."
Trump's policies have seen detention facilities erected on the US's southern borders that have been described as something akin to "concentration camps."
He criticized "open-border activists" saying their "cruel and evil" advocacy for humane migration policies had empowered smuggling networks designed to circumvent the US's borders and allow refugees to make asylum claims.
"Wise leaders always put the good of their own country first," Trump said. The future does not belong to globalists. The future belongs to patriots."
New Zealand's Premier Jacinda Ardern gave a speech in stark contrast to her US counterpart, when she said: "If instead of fierce nationalism or self-interest, we seek to form our tribes based on concepts that can and should be universal."
"What if we no longer see ourselves based on what we look like, what religion we practice, or where we live, but by what we value?" Ardern asked.
The New Zealand Prime Minster also talked up the dangers of the internet, in relation to the Christchurch mosque attacks earlier this year that claimed the lives of 51 people. "The alleged terrorist used social media as a weapon. The attack demonstrated how the internet, with extraordinary power to do good, can be perverted and used as a tool for terrorists," she said.
jsi/rt (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)