World leaders speak on day three of UN General Assembly

Leaders of South Africa, Iraq, Libya National Unity Government among those to speak on Thursday.

A general view of a United Nations Security Council meeting
General view of the United Nations Security Council meeting during the 76th session of the UN General Assembly in New York City [John Minchillo/Pool via Reuters]

World leaders are speaking for a third day at the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

The leaders of South Africa, Iraq and Libya’s national unity government are among those slated to address the gathering in New York on Thursday.

During opening remarks on Tuesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned of a world on the “edge of an abyss” as he urged countries to up engagement with the organisation.

On Wednesday, the leaders of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and the United Kingdom were among those to address the assembly. Meanwhile, the US hosted a vaccine summit and pledged to increase Washington’s global donations of doses by 500,000, bringing the total through 2022 to 1.1 billion.

This live blog is now closed. Here were Thursday’s updates:

Blinken says repairing US relations with France will take ‘time and hard work’

Echoing comments French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian made earlier on Thursday, Blinken said repairing ties between Washington and Paris will take “time and hard work”.

Relations between the allied nations suffered a blow this month after a trilateral security pact between Australia, the US and UK led to the cancellation of a multibillion-dollar submarine deal France had with Australia.

“We recognise that this will take time and hard work,” Blinken told reporters, about ongoing efforts to mend the relationship.

US ‘laser-focused’ on ending pandemic: Blinken

The US’s top diplomat has said the country’s top priority is to help end the coronavirus pandemic, including through a pledge to provide 500 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to 100 other nations over the next year.

“We are also laser-focused on getting the international community to work together toward three critically important goals,” Antony Blinken told reporters. Those goals are to increase vaccinations globally, expand health access and testing capacity right now, and build up global health security.

Blinken added that he plans to convene a foreign ministers’ meeting on COVID-19 before the end of the year.

Blinken thanks GCC nations for ‘critical’ help on Afghan evacuations

Ahead of a meeting in New York with the foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken thanked the bloc for its help with last month’s evacuations from Afghanistan.

“The recent airlift from Afghanistan was a vivid demonstration of how our Gulf partners provide critical support in times of need, and we greatly, greatly appreciate it. You stepped up. You made a difference to tens of thousands of people,” Blinken said.

Iraq president on ‘national battle’ against corruption

Iraqi President Barham Salih said his country was facing a “national battle” against corruption and that it could not move forward until it was won.

In remarks before the UNGA, Salih said that much depended on his country fighting corruption and terrorism.

He also said his country is one of the most affected in the world by climate change, and urged other world leaders who might differ politically on other issues to be united in fighting it.

President of Iraq, Barham Salih said his country was facing a “national battle” against corruption [Timothy A. Clary/Reuters]

Leaders to UN: A warmer world is a more violent one, too

Using apocalyptic images, three presidents and seven foreign ministers warned that a warmer world is also a more violent one.

At a ministerial meeting of the Security Council, the officials urged the UN’s most powerful body to do more to address the security implications of climate change and make global warming a key part of all UN peacekeeping operations.

The leaders and ministers pushing for more UN action said warming is making the world less safe, pointing to Africa’s conflict-plagued Sahel region and Syria and Iraq as examples.

Chad’s leader says virus does not know nationalities

Chad’s leader Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno used his address to the UNGA to welcome calls by the head of the UN and the director-general of the World Health Organization to make coronavirus vaccines available for all.

“The salvation of all mankind depends on it,” he said.

Chairman of the Transitional Military Council and President of Chad Mahamat Idriss Deby delivers a pre-recorded address at the 76th session of the UNGA [Spencer Platt/Reuters]

Philanthropies pledge billions during UN meeting

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced plans to spend more than $900m over the next five years to curb global malnutrition, a move to stem the rise in world hunger during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s one of several pledges private donors made this week as world leaders gather for the annual UNGA.

On Wednesday, a coalition of nine foundations said they would collectively spend $5bn by 2030 to protect at least 30 percent of the planet’s land and sea.

Erdogan says relations with Biden off to poor start

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he felt that relations with his US counterpart Joe Biden had “not gotten off to a good start” since the latter’s arrival in the White House.

“My wish is to have friendly and not hostile relations” with the US, the state news agency Anadolu quoted Erdogan as saying on the sidelines of the UNGA.

“But the way things are going between two NATO allies is currently not too auspicious.”

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said he felt that relations with his US counterpart Joe Biden had “not gotten off to a good start.” [Mary Altaffer/Reuters]

Zimbabwe: ‘Vaccine nationalism is self-defeating’

The leader of Zimbabwe called on the international community to exercise “enhanced multilateralism and a unity of purpose” in vaccine distribution in a pre-recorded address during the UNGA.

“The hoarding and inequitable distribution with the resultant uneven vaccination patterns across the globe is not acceptable,” President Emmerson Mnangagwa said.

“Vaccine nationalism is self-defeating and contrary to the mantra that no one is safe until everyone is safe.”

President of Zimbabwe Emmerson Mnangagwa speaks via video link at the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly [Spencer Platt/Reuters]

Blinken meets with ASEAN Foreign Ministers

Blinken met the foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) today on the margins of the UNGA, spokesperson Ned Price said.

Blinken thanked ASEAN countries for their support of the unprecedented global effort to evacuate US citizens and personnel of other nations from Afghanistan.

He also reaffirmed the US commitment to ASEAN centrality and US support for the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken thanked ASEAN countries for their support in Afghanistan [File: Jim Watson/Reuters]

Panama leader seeks help with flood of migrants

Panama’s President Laurentino Cortizo requested support to address the large number of migrants passing through his nation.

He told the UNGA that, this year alone, already 80,000 migrants have traversed Panama. Panama has seen a dramatic increase, from 800 in January to 30,000 last month, and Panama has been struggling to support them.

“Panama does its part. Now, we appeal to the international community to, as soon as possible, make a joint effort, with coordinated strategies and resources,” he said.

Panama’s President Laurentino Cortizo Cohen requested support to address the flood of migrants passing through his nation [Timothy A Clary/Reuters]

Cuba blasts US foreign policy

President Miguel Diaz-Canel seized on the US pullout from Afghanistan to blast the US for what he said is a history of foreign policy disasters.

“Occupation only leaves destruction, and no country has the right to impose its will on sovereign nations,” Diaz-Canel said in a pre-recorded video shown at the UNGA.

“Afghanistan is not an isolated case. It has been evidence that where the United States intervenes, there is an increase in instability, deaths, suffering and enduring scars.”

Cuba’s President Miguel Mario Diaz-Canel Bermudez speaks on screen at the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly [Reuters]

US says ‘no indication’ Iran wants to return to nuclear deal talks

The US said that Iran has given no hint that it wants to return to stalled talks over reviving the Iranian nuclear deal.

“For now, certainly there’s no indication, positive indication that Iran is prepared to come back … and to try to close down the remaining issues,” a senior US official said.

“We don’t have direct interaction with the Iranians so it’s hard for us to assess levels of optimism and pessimism.”

UN head says world must change food priorities to save the planet

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged nations to revamp their food priorities, saying the world needed food systems that safeguard the environment.

“The war on our planet must end and food systems can help us build that peace,” the secretary-general told a UN summit in New York.

Guterres said food systems “can and must play a leading role” in meeting the UN’s sustainable development goals by 2030.

Guterres says climate change threatens security

The effects of climate change threaten to further escalate problems in regions that are already unstable or in conflict, Guterres said.

“It is clear that climate change and environmental mismanagement are risk multipliers where coping capacities are limited.”

Dependence on dwindling resources, such as water, could exacerbate tensions on the ground, he said, but added that these problems could be counteracted through measures taken by the council and others.

Antonio Guterres Secretary-General of the United Nations, speaks during a meeting of the United Nations Security Council [John Minchillo/The Associated Press]

Vaccine inequality ‘indictment on humanity’

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has called the unequal distribution of vaccines across the world “an indictment on humanity”.

More than 5.9 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered globally during the past year, representing about 43 percent of the global population.

But there are vast disparities in distribution, with many lower-income nations struggling to vaccinate even the most vulnerable share of their populations. Some have yet 2- to 3-percent vaccination rates.

Ramaphosa was among several African leaders slated to address vaccine inequality on Thursday.

South Africa’s President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa remotely addressed the 76th session of the UNGA in a pre-recorded message [The Associated Press]

Iran says ‘serious progress’ in talks with Saudi Arabia

Talks between Tehran and Riyadh have led to “serious progress” on the issue of Gulf security, an Iranian foreign ministry official said.

Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of UNGA, ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh Khatibzadeh said the talks were “good” and called for countries to settle regional issues between themselves, without foreign interference.

“Serious progress has been made on the subject of security in the Gulf,” state news agency IRNA quoted Khatibzadeh as saying.

Shia-majority Iran and Sunni kingpin Saudi Arabia, on opposing sides in multiple regional conflicts, have been engaged in talks since April with the aim of improving relations, for the first time since cutting ties in 2016.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addresses the 76th session of the UN General Assembly from Tehran [AFP]
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies