▶ Damien McEl­roy re­ports from New York on a gen­eral assem­bly that will com­bine fra­ter­nity with fire­works

The National - News - - NEWS | UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY -

Po­lice no-park­ing stick­ers lit­ter the pave­ments. New York­ers have been told to avoid the east side of Man­hat­tan. The ho­tels are filled to burst­ing.

It is United Na­tions week in the Big Ap­ple and all eyes will be on US pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in the first gath­er­ing since he took charge of the global su­per­power.

There is a great deal on the line as 193 na­tions gather for the 72nd an­nual gen­eral assem­bly. Con­tro­ver­sial is­sues have al­ready led to ab­sences.

At­tempts to stop Myan­mar’s eth­nic cleans­ing of the Ro­hingya mi­nor­ity is top of the agenda. Bri­tish and Turk­ish diplo­mats have or­gan­ised high-level meet­ings to put pres­sure on the govern­ment and mil­i­tary.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the No­bel peace lau­re­ate and de facto leader of the Myan­mar govern­ment, pulled out of the trip to New York when she re­alised she would be treated as a pariah, not a paragon.

Also miss­ing from the fray will be Rus­sian pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and Chi­nese leader Xi Jin­ping. Mr Putin is still in the crosshairs over Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, while Mr Xi has lit­tle to of­fer Mr Trump or Asian lead­ers on their de­mands to rein in North Korea.

You can also ex­pect fire­works over the Ira­nian nu­clear deal as Mr Trump presses his case that the agree­ment with Tehran must be re­cast with much tighter re­stric­tions.

The first speaker of Tues­day’s open­ing ses­sion is al­ways the Brazil­ian pres­i­dent. This year the spot­light could be un­for­tu­nate as Michel Te­mer has just been charged with rack­e­teer­ing. El­e­vated to his coun­try’s lead­er­ship af­ter a power strug­gle re­sulted in his Left­ist pre­de­ces­sor be­ing ousted, Mr Te­mer is now a sym­bol of its fail­ing pol­i­tics.

Once the speeches are un­der way, there will be the peren­nial fight over tim­ing for the lead­ers. Ev­ery­one is given 15 min­utes, but hardly any­one sticks to it. The record is Fidel Cas­tro’s 269-minute di­a­tribe.

Seat­ing is ar­ranged by lot­tery. Look out for North Korea’s del­e­ga­tion in the mid­dle of the front row, par­tic­u­larly un­der the nose of Mr Trump dur­ing his de­but speech on Tues­day.

The US leader wants to be a trans­for­ma­tive fig­ure at the UN. De­spite cuts in de­part­ments such as peace­keep­ing as a re­sult of shrink­ing US con­tri­bu­tions, Wash­ing­ton has an am­bi­tious agenda. Nikki Ha­ley, the Trump-ap­pointed UN am­bas­sador, said she ex­pected much from the meet­ings.

“Pres­i­dent Trump has al­ways seen there is value in the UN and now I think the world is see­ing it,” Ms Ha­ley said.

Mr Trump’s ap­petite for con­fronta­tion adds to the risk that his ad­dress will not go well.

“The pres­i­dent’s big­gest chal­lenge will be him­self,” said Richard Gowan, of the European Coun­cil on For­eign Re­la­tions. “The me­dia will be hop­ing and pray­ing that Trump will cause ruc­tions at the UN. He may not be able to hold back.”

The US leader hosts a sum­mit on UN re­form the day be­fore the Gen­eral Assem­bly opens.

The gath­er­ing of 100 rep­re­sen­ta­tives to­mor­row has been called by sec­re­tary gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res, the for­mer prime min­is­ter of Por­tu­gal who took charge of the UN at the start of the year.

With so much up in the air, it is no­table that one of the ex­pected break­throughs should be on Libya next Wed­nes­day when spe­cial en­voy Ghas­san Salame presents a road map for com­pro­mise be­tween the fac­tions.

“We have a strong po­lit­i­cal process, I think, un­der UN lead­er­ship,” said Matthew Ry­croft, the Bri­tish am­bas­sador to the UN. “We have a process that will bring peo­ple to­gether, help them amend their po­lit­i­cal agree­ment and im­ple­ment it. That is what the coun­try needs so that it can tackle the threat from ter­ror­ism and threats from crim­i­nal gangs who are abus­ing so many mi­grants as they leave Libya.”

Re­gional is­sues in Syria, Ye­men and Qatar will be at the fore­front from the start as Mr Guter­res to­day meets Adel Al Jubeir, the Saudi Ara­bian for­eign min­is­ter, and shortly af­ter­wards hosts King Ab­dul­lah II of Jor­dan.

Dr An­war Gar­gash, Min­is­ter of State for For­eign Af­fairs, is due to speak to the pres­ti­gious Coun­cil on For­eign Re­la­tions.

Mr Trump will con­tinue his at­tempts to me­di­ate when he meets the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim, af­ter hopes for move­ment on the Qatar cri­sis were un­der­mined this month.

Ab­del Fat­tah El Sisi, the Egyp­tian pres­i­dent, is also trav­el­ling to New York and hopes to over­come the im­passe with the US over a cut in aid.

Mr Trump will also hold talks with lead­ers of the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity and Bri­tain, and have lunch with African lead­ers. On Thurs­day, he will meet lead­ers from Turkey, Afghanistan and Ukraine, then take part in a lunch with lead­ers of South Korea and Ja­pan.

The UN meet­ing is an oc­ca­sion where out­side events pro­vide as much mo­men­tum as the for­mal gath­er­ing. There is a sig­nif­i­cant fo­cus on the sus­tain­able devel­op­ment goals and the ur­gency of rein­vig­o­rat­ing these with only 13 years to meet the 2030 dead­line.

“The things that are talked about more of­ten are the things that are the sex­i­est,” said Kevin McAn­drew, strat­egy di­rec­tor at Save the Chil­dren.

“But I think the things where in­no­va­tion is truly ac­com­plish­ing some­thing on the goals are much more in­cre­men­tal and on the edges, and not as sexy.”

Cli­mate change is likely to be an­other flash­point. Em­manuel Macron, the French pres­i­dent, speaks af­ter Mr Trump and his mes­sage on the Paris Ac­cord is ex­pected to crit­i­cise the US leader’s with­drawal.

The end of an era is marked on Wed­nes­day when for­mer pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton gives an ad­dress to the Bloomberg Global Business Fo­rum.

Michael Bloomberg, the for­mer mayor of New York, will take over from the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion as the host of the elite so­cial event.

Seat­ing is ar­ranged by lot­tery. Look out for North Korea’s del­e­ga­tion in the mid­dle of the front row, un­der Mr Trump’s nose

Bill Kot­satos for The Na­tional

The UN build­ing in New York yes­ter­day where the 193 na­tions will gather for the 72nd UN Gen­eral Assem­bly

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