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Obama, Francis, Putin, Castro: Who to watch at UN General Assembly

Painters continue work a 225-foot-tall mural likeness of Pope Francis on the corner of 34th Street and Eighth Avenue in New York, NY, on August 30th, 2015. The Pope is scheduled to visit New York City on September 24th through the 25th, making stops at the United Nations, St. Patrick's Cathedral and Madison Square Garden. (Photo by Anthony Behar) *** Please Use Credit from Credit Field ***

The world’s leaders descend upon New York this week and next for the 70th United Nations General Assembly during what United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called “a time of turmoil and hope.”

Indeed, these are desperate times. Syria will be a key issue, as world leaders seek an end to a conflict that has killed over 200,000 people and displaced millions more.

The historic and controversial Iran deal and its implications for the Middle East and the rest of the world will also be a major topic in speeches. Yemen, where airstrikes are devastating the civilian population, too, is expected to be a serious talking point.

Much attention will likely be paid the increasing humanitarian needs of civilians bearing the brunt of these crises, including the 60 million people who have been displaced by brutal conflicts, economic despair and repression, spawning the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

More than 160 world leaders are expected at this year’s UN General Assembly (UNGA), but these are the ones you should watch for.

 

Pope Francis

1 Pope Francis talks with a group of children in the sanctuary of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, in El Cobre, Cuba, Monday, Sept. 21, 2015.

Not speaking at the General Debate but opening the Sustainable Development Summit is Pope Francis. Perhaps the highlight of the entire UNGA, and on the heels of his speech at the a joint session of Congress Thursday, the pontiff is expected to demand more action against climate change and urge a collective response to the deepening global refugee crisis.

“The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth,” Francis said in June in a string of 63 tweets that highlighted his 180-page statement urging citizens of the world to take action on climate change.

 

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Vladimir Putin

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Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, listens to a question during a meeting with his supporters in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Sept. 7, 2015

When Russia’s Vladimir Putin makes his first visit to the U.S. and the UNGA since his 2005 appearance on, he will be met by protesters from the Ukrainian-American community and Russian LGBT community that has settled in New York, as well as Russian dissidents, all of whom have organized protests on Facebook.

The reasons? There are many, but mostly they stem from the Russian leader’s aggression in Ukraine and his crackdown on rights and freedoms at home.

The illegal annexation of Crimea last year and the Kremlin’s backing of separatists in eastern Ukraine, where a 16-month war has killed nearly 8,000 people have soured relations between Moscow and Washington.

Moreover, tensions have intensified in recent weeks as Russia boosts its support of the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, reportedly deploying 2,000 military personnel and dozens of fighter jets to the war-racked country.

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Putin has said the move was made to fight terrorism in the region and clamp down on the Islamic State. Critics says he’s opened a second front through which he can challenge Western dominance.

Observers say and the Kremlin has hinted that Putin will propose a non-U.S.-led coalition to fight terrorism in the Middle East in an attempt to score points with and find common ground upon which to cooperate with the West, which has worked to isolate Russia as punishment for its actions in Ukraine.

 

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Petro Poroshenko

1 Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko speaks with EU officials in Kiev, Ukraine, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015.

Ukraine may have fallen off the front pages, but there is still very much a conflict in its restive east.

You can expect Petro Poroshenko, the Ukrainian president, in his speech to address Russian aggression, specifically in regards to the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine, but also concerning the annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Putin’s covert army last year that violated international law.

Poroshenko will also likely urge the world to condemn the imprisonment of Nadiya Savchenko, the Ukrainian fighter pilot being tried on what are widely seen as trumped-up murder charges in Russia, and urge Putin to release her.

Xi Jingping

1 China’s President Xi Jinping (center) attends a summit meeting with his South Korean counterpart Park Geun-Hye at the Blue House in Seoul on July 3, 2014.

Xi Jingping, the Chinese leader, will make his debut appearance at the UNGA after a trip to Seattle during which he encouraged American investment in Chinese companies.

His visit comes amid tensions between Washington and Beijing over concerns about China’s cyberwar and spying against the U.S.

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Barack Obama

1 President Barack Obama at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 45th Annual Legislative Conference Phoenix Awards Dinner at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, Sept. 19, 2015.

President Obama will have a lot on his plate — the Iran deal, Russian aggression in Ukraine and its support for Assad in Syria, and Chinese cyber attacks, to name a few — when he takes the state at the UNGA on Monday.

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“Obama will be in the tricky position of speaking before his two main geopolitical rivals,” said Richard Gowan, a UN expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, speaking to The Guardian. “If he lauds their cooperation over Iran, rightwing American critics will claim he’s gone soft on China and Russia. If he throws in any tough lines about Ukraine, as he did last year, or the South China Sea, Xi and Putin will be able to take the podium and accuse him of making trouble.”

Raul Castro

1 Cuba’s President Raul Castro waves as he escorts Pope Francis at the airport in Havana, Cuba, Sept. 19, 2015. 

Cuban President Raul Castro will speak for the first time at the UNGA on Sept. 28 in what will be his first trip to the U.S. since visiting Houston with his brother, Fidel, in 1959, during which the two reportedly had a screaming match in a hotel room.

Castro is expected to tout recent and historic progress made in U.S.-Cuba relations, observers say. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez told reporters recently that Cuba will introduce a resolution this year that “welcomes” the reestablishment of relations with the U.S. and acknowledges the Obama administration’s effort to lift the embargo against the country.

Castro’s visit is likely to ruffle the feathers of republicans, who have mostly stood against Washington’s restoration of diplomatic relations between the countries, even calling the move a “capitulation.”

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Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel

 

ARCHIV - Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel (CDU) und Frankreichs Präsident Francois Hollande kommen am 24.08.2015 in Berlin im Bundeskanzleramt zu einer kurzen Pressekonferenz. Photo by: Kay Nietfeld/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, with French President Francois Hollande, Aug. 24, 2015.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande will deliver anhistoric joint speech to the European Parliament on Oct. 7, in which they are expected to address the troubles facing the European Union. But you can bet they will touch on the topic in each of the separate speeches at the UNGA.

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Europe is faced with a massive influx of migrants and refugees fleeing war, poverty and repression. They are spilling across the borders of Eastern Europe as they try to make their way to Western European countries, like Germany, which has led the way in handling the crisis.

The EU has struggled greatly in addressing the issue, and there is no end to the wave of people fleeing to the continent in search of sanctuary in sight.

Hassan Rouhani

1Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks with media in a joint press conference with his Austrian counterpart Heinz Fischer after their meeting at the Saadabad Palace in Tehran, Iran, Sept. 8, 2015.  

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani recently told CBS’ “60 Minutes” program that his country and the U.S. “have taken the first steps” toward easing tensions between them due to a landmark nuclear accord.

However even with the deal, “the distance, the disagreements, the lack of trust, will not go away soon,” he said.

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Observers say his speech at the UNGA will be an indication as to whether he’s willing to compromise and work with the U.S. on several issues, not least of which is Syria (Iran has backed Assad’s regime in the civil war) and the release of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, a dual U.S. and Iranian citizen who currently jailed in Iran.

Who’s missing?

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Prime Minister David Cameron makes a speech during a reception to mark a successful summer of cricket at 10 Downing Street, London, Sept. 21, 2015.

Notably absent from the speakers’ podium will be British Prime Minister David Cameron, who has delegated a minister to take up the task.

Cameron, embroiled in PigGate in the UK, has taken some heat for the decision not to speak.

Richard Gowan, New York-based fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told Britain’s The Telegraph that the move reflected the Cameron government’s view of the UN — and vice versa.

“Ten or 15 years ago, certainly in the Blair era, there was a feeling that that the UN was really central to what Britain was trying to do in the world,” he said. “Now there’s a definite sense that the British don’t quite lead at the UN in the same way but are good workhorses when it comes to drafting resolutions.”

Key dates

Friday, Sept. 25

Pope Francis will open the Sustainable Development Summit, speaking at 8:30 a.m. Friday morning.

Monday, Sept. 28

President Obama, as well as his counterparts from China, Cuba, Russia, Ukraine and other countries will begin to address their counterparts. Speeches will last until Oct. 3.

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Source:http://mashable.com

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