The 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly - also known as the 'general debate' - begins on Tuesday, September 25. Each country's representative, often but not always the head of state, addresses his or her fellow leaders and the world.

The general debate takes place in the General Assembly Hall at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, US.
The general debate takes place in the General Assembly Hall at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, US. (Reuters)

Global leaders have gathered in New York to discuss pressing global issues and set the agenda for the next year at the annual UN General Assembly (UNGA). 

The high-level segment of the 73rd session of the General Assembly - also known as the 'general debate' - begins on Tuesday. Every country's representative has the chance to speak to the UNGA and the world. 

Presidents, prime ministers, monarchs and high-ranking ministers from 133 countries have signed up to attend the week-long session.

The theme of the 2018 UNGA is "Making the United Nations Relevant to All People: Global Leadership and Shared Responsibilities for Peaceful, Equitable and Sustainable Societies."

Following are the highlights of the UNGA and many meetings expected to take place on the sidelines of the general assembly:

Saturday, September 29

Pakistan calls for UN probe into Kashmir rights abuses

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi blamed India for a recent breakdown in their relations as he addressed a UN gathering of world leaders. 

He said Pakistan "prefers politics over peace" and that India cancelled scheduled talks over "flimsy grounds".

Qureshi accused New Delhi of "state-sponsored terrorism" in  disputed Kashmir saying, "it is India that in plain sight of the international community perpetrates state-sponsored terrorism in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of India."

Calling for a UN commission of inquiry to probe rights abuses in the disputed region, he said Islamabad will welcome the commission to Pakistan-administered Kashmir. 

India accuses Pakistan of harbouring terrorists

India’s foreign minister has accused neighbouring Pakistan of harbouring terrorists. 

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj also rejected the notion that India is sabotaging peace talks with Pakistan, calling it "a complete lie." 

She accused Pakistan of "verbal duplicity," noting that Osama bin Laden was found living there, and said the mastermind of the 2008 attack in Mumbai "still roams the streets of Pakistan with impunity."

North Korea says won't disarm without US trust

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho has said his nation would never disarm its nuclear weapons first if it can’t trust Washington. 

He called on the United States to follow through on promises made during a summit in Singapore between the rivals’ leaders. 

His comments come as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seems to be on the verge of restarting deadlocked nuclear diplomacy more than three months after the Singapore with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.

Syrian regime demands foreign troops withdrawal

Syrian regime’s foreign minister Walid Muallem has demanded the immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops from Syria who are there in the country “illegally.” 

Speaking at the UN General Assembly, he cited US, French and Turkish troops who are in Syria without invitation from the Syrian regime. 

He said Syria considers them “occupation forces and will be dealt with accordingly.”

Friday, September 28

Russia takes swipe at US

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov suggested that the United States had undermined efforts to reach international agreements ranging from Middle East peace, Iran, climate and trade. 

“Attacks have been launched against the basic principles of the Middle East peace process, the Joint Comprehensive Plan ofAction (Iran nuclear deal), commitments of the Word Trade Organization, climate agreements and many more,” Lavrov said in a speech to the UN General Assembly. 

He also said Moscow would do everything possible to save theIran nuclear deal struck by world powers in 2015.

'China won't be blackmailed'

The Chinese government’s top diplomat Wang Yi said on Friday Beijing would not be blackmailed or yield to pressure over trade and criticised unilateral moves by some states that China believes would bring harm to all. 

“Protectionism will only hurt oneself, and unilateral moves will bring damage to all,” Wang said in a speech at the United Nations General Assembly. 

“Regarding trade frictions, China stands for a proper settlement based on rules and consensus through dialogue and consultation on an equal footing. China will not be blackmailed or yield to pressure.”

Thursday, September 27

Netanyahu says 'atomic warehouse' in Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he is exposing what he said is a secret Iranian nuclear weapons storage site.

Netanyahu presented maps and photos of what he said is a "secret atomic warehouse" in the Turquzabad district of Tehran, concealed as a rug-cleaning operation.

Netanyahu said Israel has shared information about this site with the International Atomic Energy Agency and some intelligence agencies.

There was no immediate reaction from Iran, which denies building nuclear weapons.

Netanyahu made the announcement at the UN General Assembly, where he spoke out strongly against the 2015 Iranian nuclear accord.

However, he said the deal helped bring closer Israel and its Arab neighbours.

Trump undermined two-state solution – Abbas

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said "we will achieve our independence with peace", in his address to the UN General Assembly.

Abbas said Israel crossed all red lines by adopting a "racist" nation-state law, while urging the United Nations to reject it. 

He said the Trump administration reneged on previous commitments and its decisions on Jerusalem, US embassy move, aid cuts have undermined the two-state solution.

Abbas said "biased" US cannot be sole Mideast mediator.

Wednesday, September 26

UK PM May defends multilateralism at UNGA

British Prime Minister Theresa May called on world leaders in New York to reject nationalism and fight to preserve the multilateral system, challenging US President Donald Trump's anti-globalism stance.

May used her address at the United Nations General Assembly, to warn that "aggressive nationalism" could replace the rules-based international order unless leaders revived public confidence in the current system.

"If we lack the confidence to step up, others will," May said, citing examples from the last century like the rise of fascism or the spread of communism. 

May also expressed her support for a free and fair media - another position which puts her at odds with Trump, who has frequently criticised journalists and described news reports that contradict his opinion or policy positions as fake news.

Iran's Rouhani says US will eventually rejoin nuclear deal

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that the United States would eventually rejoin an international nuclear deal, saying talks this week at the United Nations showed his counterpart Donald Trump's isolation.

"The United States of America one day, sooner or later, will come back. This cannot be continued," Rouhani told a news conference.

"We are not isolated; America is isolated," he said.

China 'doesn't want me to win' upcoming polls – Trump

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

China immediately rejected the accusations.

Here's what Trump said about the alleged election interference –

Trump hails Turkey for Idlib deal

US President Donald Trump hailed Turkey for averting a regime offensive in Syria's Idlib province, during his speech at the UN Security Council. 

Last week, Russia and Turkey reached a deal to avert an offensive against Idlib, the last major rebel-held stronghold in Syria.

He also thanked Iran, Russia and Syrian regime for slowing their attack on the province. 

Earlier Trump said he would be willing to meet with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro if that would help Venezuela and that all options were on the table.

"I just want to see Venezuela straightened out... If he's here, if he wants to meet ... it was not on my mind, it was not on my plate but if I can help people that's what I'm here for."

Turkey's FM says Syria, Iraq still threatened by terrorists

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Syria and Iraq are still threatened by Daesh, al Qaeda, al Nusra, PKK and PYD/YPG terror groups.   

Speaking on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Cavusoglu urged the international community to unite, saying "no country can fight these threats on its own".   

Cavusoglu underlined a new phase in the fight against terrorism, during the ninth ministerial session of the Global Forum on Combating Terrorism in New York.

"In Syria and Iraq, we are able to deal a major blow to Daesh. We are not talking about the state-like structure with huge financial resources anymore, yet the threat is not over," Cavusoglu said.   

UN 'has no pulse' – Erdogan in Foreign Policy magazine

Calling for reforming the United Nations, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said "The UN, which was intended to be the beating heart of humanity, has no pulse." 

Writing in the Foreign Policy magazine, Erdogan said if the global powers don't help, "the rest of the international community must initiate a comprehensive UN reform process."

"We must end the monopoly of a small number of nations and promote the collective leadership of countries that aim to resolve key global challenges."

Tuesday, September 25

Trump seeking Iran leadership 'overthrow' – Rouhani 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani accused his US counterpart Donald Trump of trying to topple his government as he poured cold water on the idea of resuming talks with Washington after its pullout from an international nuclear accord.

"It is ironic that the US government does not even conceal its plan for overthrowing the same government it invites to talks," Rouhani said in his speech.

"For dialogue to take place, there is no need for a photo opportunity. The two sides can listen to each other right here in this Assembly.

Iranian president said the "unilateral" US sanctions amounted to "economic terrorism" but also invited US for talks, saying "there is no better way but dialogue."

"We invite you to come back to the negotiating table you left," Rouhani told the US.

Rouhani also said Iran believed in setting up a collective mechanism for the Persian Gulf with the presence and participation of all regional countries.

Qatar open for 'unconditional dialogue'

Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani told the United Nations that the ongoing boycott targeting his country is "paralysing" Gulf Arab nations.

He said he hopes to reform the Gulf Cooperations Council. 

The Qatari emir said the boycott by Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has only caused "our Arab region to remain hostage to marginal differences." 

The boycott began in June 2017,

He said that his country remains open to "unconditional dialogue." However, the dispute has only hardened over time and affected Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

Sheikh Tamim said: "We hope that we will all transform the council's current plight into an opportunity to reforming it."

Macron bats for Iran, Palestinians 

French President Emmanuel Macron called for "dialogue and multilateralism" on Iran, in a thinly veiled response to President Donald Trump's push for tough, US-led sanctions.

Speaking shortly after Trump and Erdogan, the French leader credited the 2015 accord rejected by Trump with curbing the nuclear programme of Iran.

Macron also rejected trade deals with countries outside Paris climate pact.

On Palestine question, he said trampling on the Palestinians and pushing unilateral initiatives will not resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in a swipe at Trump's policy on the issue.

"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."

Erdogan seeks UN structural reform

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the UN achieved "undeniable successes" in 73 years, but the organisation has moved away from meeting humanity's expectations on peace and welfare.

"UNSC is serving interests of five veto-entitled members (but) standing idle to oppression in other parts of world," he said.

Erdogan demanded UN structural reform, saying "Turkey becomes the voice of the world by saying 'the world is bigger than five'."

"If a child born in Africa is more likely to die at the beginning of his life than a child born in New York, there is a problem," Erdogan said.

On Syria's war, the Turkish president said Turkey's goal is to clear the Syrian territory, all the way from Manbij to the Iraqi border, from terrorists.

He said Turkey has spent $32 billion on Syrian refugees but "external support Ankara received from international organisations $600 million, €1.7 billion from EU".

On Fetullah Terrorist Organisation (FETO), the group behind a coup attempt in Turkey in 2016, Erdogan said the FETO leader Fetullah Gulen is now in US where he "exports terror" to 160 countries.

"Ankara eliminated the majority of FETO in the last five years but the US and European countries have not understood the danger yet."

Erdogan and Trump had a brief meeting ahead of the UNGA address, Anadolu Agency reported. 

Trump slams Iran, thanks North Korea at UNGA

US President Donald Trump opened UN address with boasts of US economic and military might, rejection of "global governance".

During his speech, Trump thanked North Korea's Kim Jong-un for his courage and steps he has taken, adding Pyongyang's nuclear tests have stopped and missiles are no longer flying in the Korean peninsula.

Trump said US is working with gulf nations, Jordan and Egypt to set up regional strategic alliance and Washington will respond if chemical weapons are deployed by the Assad regime in Syria.

Trump also targeted Iran saying its leaders "sow chaos, death and destruction."

"... they plunder the nation's resources to enrich themselves and spread mayhem in Middle East and far beyond .... They have embezzled billions of dollars."

Trump said he honours the right of every nation to pursue its own customs, beliefs and traditions, adding the US will never tell other nations how to live, work or worship.

But Trump said the United States expects other nations to "honour America's sovereignty in return."

He said that US rejects ideology of globalism, International Criminal Court has "no legitimacy", and OPEC nations are ripping off the rest of the world while calling on OPEC to lower crude oil prices. 

While Trump specifically thanked Jordan for hosting Syrian refugees at the UNGA, he failed to mention Turkey, which hosts more than 3.5 million refugees, by far the biggest number in the world. 

Trump was also laughed at in the beginning of his speech when he bragged about his administration's achievements. 

The world has 'Trust Deficit Disorder' – Guterres

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told global leaders that the world "is suffering from a bad case of 'Trust Deficit Disorder.'"

The UN chief painted a bleak picture in his speech as he pointed to rising polarisation and populism within nations, ebbing cooperation among them and "fragile" trust in international institutions.

Guterres said "democratic principles are under siege" and that technology stands to change or eliminate some jobs and is a tool in the hands of terrorists, cybercriminals and creators of disinformation campaigns. 

Guterres declared that "the prospect of machines with the discretion and power to take human life is morally repugnant."

He also noted that people increasingly are getting information from social media feeds and outlets that echo their views and "reinforce tribalism."

Guterres told world leaders that they aren't doing enough to combat what he calls "a direct existential threat" that is moving faster than people are working to combat it.

He noted that thick, permanent sea ice north of Greenland began to break up this year for the first time.

He also called for making sure the international Paris climate change agreement is implemented. 

Monday, September 24

Erdogan meets Guterres

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held a closed-door meeting with the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at UN headquarters. 

The meeting came a day before Erdogan's address to the General Assembly's 73rd session.     

The UN said Guterres "commended the excellent UN-Turkish cooperation, including in support of Turkey’s hosting of more than 3.5 million refugees," following the bilateral meeting.

"The Secretary-General and the President discussed the situation in Syria, with the Secretary-General welcoming the agreement reached on 17 September to create a demilitarised zone in Idlib," the UN said in a statement. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the organisation's headquarters in New York on Monday, September 24, 2018.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the organisation's headquarters in New York on Monday, September 24, 2018. (AA)

Trump-Kim summit 'pretty soon'

President Donald Trump said on Monday he expected a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to be announced "pretty soon" and the location had yet to be determined.

Trump, during a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the United Nations, said: "Chairman Kim has been really very open and terrific, frankly. I think he wants to see something happen."

Moon said he brought Trump a personal message from Kim and that the North Korean leader was hoping to meet with the US president soon. Trump said he and Moon also had a good discussion on trade between South Korea and the United States.

Macron meets Trump

French President Emmanuel Macron is scheduled to meet US President Donald Trump.

Later in the week, Macron is also scheduled to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of UNGA. 

Trump chairs counter-narcotics meeting 

US President Donald Trump chaired a US-sponsored meeting on counter-narcotics "Global Call to Action on the World Drug Problem."

US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said last week that the meeting is intended to explore reducing the use of illicit drugs, cutting the supply off, expanding treatment and expanding international cooperation.

Haley said 124 countries have already signed up to support and the US is looking forward to more signatories. 

Sunday, September 23

Erdogan meets Turkish and Muslim communities in New York

At an event organised by Turkish American National Steering Committee, Turkey's President Erdogan said Turkey would continue to increase the number of safe zones within Syria to include areas east of the Euphrates River. 

On Palestine, he said, "We will not abandon Jerusalem, our first Qıblah [Islamic direction of prayer] to invaders and those who perform state terror on Palestinians."

In his meeting with Turkish and Muslim business and community leaders, the Turkish president criticised elements of the UN system, saying there should be no distinctions between member states and that all members should be permanent and equally represented.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies