Ukraine to dominate UN General Assembly amid geopolitical divide

Climate change, Iran sanctions, and worsening global poverty will also feature at the annual meeting of world leaders in New York this week.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says geopolitical rifts are ‘the widest they have been since at least the Cold War’ [File: Pedro Nunes/Reuters]
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a global food crisis aggravated by the war will be the focus of world leaders when they convene at the United Nations in New York this week, a gathering that is unlikely to yield any progress towards ending the conflict.

“It would be naive to think that we are close to the possibility of a peace deal,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday in advance of the high-level meeting of the 193 member states, which starts on Tuesday.

Six months since Russia invaded Ukraine: What’s next?“The chances of a peace deal are minimal at the present moment.”

Geopolitical divides, hardened by the seven-month-old war, are likely to be on full display as the United States and Western allies compete with Russia for diplomatic influence.

Moreover, the US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said there are no plans to meet Russian diplomats.

“They have not indicated that they have an interest in diplomacy. What they are interested in is continuing to raise this unprovoked war on Ukraine,” said Thomas-Greenfield.

She added while the war in Ukraine will be discussed, “we cannot ignore the rest of the world”.

Guterres said the geopolitical rifts were “the widest they have been since at least the Cold War” and “paralyzing the global response to the dramatic challenges we face” highlighting conflicts, climate, poverty, hunger, and inequality.

‘Huge tension’

Russia and Ukraine are major grain and fertiliser exporters and the UN has blamed the war for the worsening food crisis that was already fuelled by climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The United States will co-host a food security summit with the European Union and the African Union on the sidelines of the UN gathering, along with a COVID-19  global action plan meeting and a replenishment conference for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

“Underlying a lot of these meetings will be a huge amount of tension between Western countries and representatives of the Global South in particular,” said Richard Gowan, UN director at the International Crisis Group.

“There’s still a lot of ill feeling over issues such as the COVID vaccine rollout, climate financing … and now food prices. All these issues are driving major wedges amongst UN member states,” Gowan said.

Men work to cover damaged windows of a residential building after a Russian attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine [File: Leo Correa/AP Photo]
Russia has been trying to chip away at its international isolation after nearly three-quarters of the UNGA voted to reprimand Moscow and demand it withdraw its troops within a week of its February 24 invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, his US counterpart Antony Blinken, and French President Emmanuel Macron all visited African states in the past several months, vying for influence. Africa has been hard hit with a famine expected to be declared in Somalia in the coming months.

Pakistan prime minister Shehbaz Sharif and foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto will hold a number of bilateral meetings with their counterparts from various countries.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. File photo

The prime minister will address the UN General Assembly on 23 September. In focus will be the challenge faced by Pakistan in wake of the recent climate-induced catastrophic floods in the country.

He will outline concrete proposals for collectively tackling the existential threat posed by climate change. Moreover, the premier will also share Pakistan’s position and perspective on regional and global issues of concern including Jammu and Kashmir, which is one of the long-standing unresolved disputes on the UN agenda.

On the sidelines of the UNGA Session, Shehbaz Sharif will participate in the Global Food Security Summit jointly organized by the African Union, European Union and the United States, and a Closed-door Leaders Gathering on COP-27 bringing together select world leaders to discuss climate change.

During his visit, he will hold a number of bilateral meetings with his counterparts from various countries, the President of the General Assembly, the UN Secretary-General as well as heads of International Organisations, IFIs, and philanthropic organisations.

Leaders will also have the opportunity to interact during the receptions hosted by the UN Secretary-General and the President of the United States. The Prime Minister will also hold interactions with the international media.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will also have an extensive program attending various high-level meetings and events, bilateral meetings with a number of his counterparts, media and think-tank interactions, besides chairing G-77 and China Annual Meeting of Foreign Ministers, OIC Annual Coordination Meeting of Foreign Ministers, and participation in the meeting of the OIC Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir.

Both in its national capacity and as the current Chair of the largest international grouping of developing countries – the Group of 77 and China – as well as the current Chair of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers, Pakistan will serve as the collective voice of the Global South to promote international peace and security, sustainable development and human rights for all, in accordance with the principles of the UN Charter.

In-person attendance

For the past two years, leaders were allowed to submit video statements because of pandemic restrictions, but this year they have to travel to New York City to speak in the UNGA chamber. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping are sending their foreign ministers.

However, the UNGA agreed to allow Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to send a pre-recorded video statement. The decision was adopted with 101 votes in favour, seven against, and 19 abstentions. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba is expected to attend.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is also travelling to New York. While it is unlikely Tehran and Washington will overcome an impasse to salvage a 2015 nuclear pact soon, Iran will use the gathering to keep the diplomatic ball rolling by repeating its willingness to reach a sustainable deal.

Source: News agencies

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Coverpage’s editorial stance

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