World lead­ers to fo­cus on refugee cri­sis, Syria at U.N.

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - WEATHER -

UNITED NA­TIONS >> World lead­ers meet­ing at the United Na­tions start­ing Monday will be try­ing to make progress on two in­tractable prob­lems at the top of the global agenda — the big­gest refugee cri­sis since World War II and the Syr­ian con­flict now in its sixth year which has claimed over 300,000 lives.

Against a back­drop of ris­ing eth­nic and re­li­gious ten­sion, fight­ing else­where in the Mideast and Africa, ex­trem­ist at­tacks across the world and a warm­ing planet, there are plenty of other is­sues for the 135 heads of state and govern­ment and more than 50 min­is­ters ex­pected to at­tend to try to tackle.

“It’s no se­cret there’s a lot of fear out there,” U.S. Am­bas­sador Sa­man­tha Power told re­porters Thurs­day, cit­ing the un­cer­tain­ties sparked by Bri­tain’s vote to leave the Euro­pean Union, the threat posed by the Is­lamic State ex­trem­ist group, and at­tacks in many parts of the world by IS and other ter­ror­ist groups.

But Syria, where a tense cease-fire bro­kered by Moscow and Washington went into ef­fect last Monday, re­mains at the top of the agenda at the U.N. Gen­eral Assem­bly’s an­nual min­is­te­rial meet­ing. An ap­par­ently er­rant airstrike on Satur­day in which the U.S. mil­i­tary may have un­in­ten­tion­ally struck Syr­ian troops while car­ry­ing out a raid against the Is­lamic State group could deal a crush­ing blow to the U.S.Rus­sian-bro­kered cease­fire. The cease-fire, which does not ap­ply to at­tacks on IS, has largely held for five days de­spite dozens of al­leged vi­o­la­tions on both sides.

The U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil held a closed emer­gency meet­ing Satur­day night at Rus­sia’s re­quest to dis­cuss the airstrike. The ac­ri­mo­nious meet­ing of­fered a harbinger of the dif­fi­cul­ties ahead as the U.S. and Rus­sia re­main sus­pi­cious of each other’s in­tents in Syria. U.S. Am­bas­sador Sa­man­tha Power ac­cused Rus­sia of pulling “a stunt” that is “cyn­i­cal and hyp­o­crit­i­cal” in call­ing for the meet­ing while not tak­ing sim­i­lar ac­tion in re­sponse to atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted by Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad’s regime. Rus­sian Am­bas­sador Vi­taly Churkin said he had never seen “such an ex­tra­or­di­nary dis­play of Amer­i­can heavy­hand­ed­ness” as dis­played by power. Area a said Rus­si­a­calleoiusvbin

The ac­ri­mony over the airstrike could spill over into a Se­cu­rity Coun­cil min­is­te­rial meet­ing on Syria sched­uled for Wed­nes­day. Rus­sia was push­ing for a res­o­lu­tion to en­dorse the ces­sa­tion of hos­til­i­ties and look ahead, but the U.S. re­fused to make pub­lic de­tails of the cease-fire deal cit­ing “op­er­a­tional se­cu­rity.” Churkin ear­lier had called the U.S. un­co­op­er­a­tive and said most likely “we’re not go­ing to have a res­o­lu­tion.”

With the truce still frag­ile, no sign yet of hu­man­i­tar­ian aid de­liv­er­ies, and sup­port­ers and op­po­nents of the Syr­ian govern­ment trad­ing ac­cu­sa­tions, diplo­mats said there may be a meet­ing Tues­day of some 20 key coun­tries on both sides who are part of the In­ter­na­tional Syria Sup­port Group to chart the next steps.

The spot­light dur­ing the week is also cer­tain to shine on three lead­ers, who are all sched­uled to speak at the assem­bly’s open­ing min­is­te­rial ses­sion on Tues­day morn­ing.

U.N. Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon who steps down on Dec. 31, and U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama who will leave of­fice in Jan­uary, will be ad­dress­ing the 193-mem­ber world body for the last time. And Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May will be mak­ing her de­but on the world stage less than three months after the vote to leave the Euro­pean Union.

In U.N. cor­ri­dors and at pri­vate meet­ings, the ques­tion of Ban’s suc­ces­sor will be a hot topic. Por­tu­gal’s former Prime Min­is­ter An­to­nio Guter­res has topped all four in­for­mal polls in the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil but he could be ve­toed, pos­si­bly by Rus­sia, and there are con­stant ru­mors of new can­di­dates throw­ing their hats in the ring.

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