UNITED NATIONS (UKTN) – Leaders of two of the world’s most watched countries – US President Joe Biden and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi – will be among those to have their say on the second day of the first all-in-person meeting of the UN General Assembly since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
But Wednesday’s biggest draw will likely be the only leader seen and heard, but not really in person: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskky, whose nation is at war with Russia.
The 193-member assembly voted last week to allow Zelensky to deliver a pre-recorded speech because of his continued need to deal with the Russian invasion, making an exception to the requirement that all leaders speak in person. Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend the annual meeting of world leaders.
Unsurprisingly, Ukraine was the center of attention at the meeting, with leader after world leader condemning Russia for attacking a sovereign nation. The war, which has already killed thousands, is driving up food prices around the world and is also causing energy costs to rise – a particularly worrisome problem en route to winter. It has also raised fears of a nuclear disaster at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in now Russian-occupied southeastern Ukraine.
Leaders from many countries are trying to prevent a bigger conflict and restore peace in Europe. Diplomats don’t expect any breakthroughs this week at the United Nations, where nearly 150 leaders address each other and the world.
Biden’s speech on Wednesday is expected to draw a lot of attention to the war in Ukraine, where the country’s forces have recaptured control of large swaths of territory near Kharkov in the nearly seven-month-old in recent weeks. war were taken by Russian troops. .
But even as Ukraine’s armed forces have won battlefield victories, much of Europe is feeling a painful backlash from the economic sanctions imposed on Russia to punish Moscow for its invasion.
There is also growing concern in the White House that Putin could further escalate the conflict after the recent setbacks. Biden warned Putin in a UKTN-TV “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday that deploying nuclear or chemical weapons in Ukraine would result in a “consistent” response from the United States.
Biden’s visit to the UN also comes as his administration’s efforts to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal appear to have stalled. The deal brokered by the Obama administration — and scrapped by Trump in 2018 — secured billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for Iran’s agreement to dismantle much of its nuclear program and open its facilities to international inspection.
The Iranian president has said he has no plans to meet Biden on the sidelines of the UN event. Raisi called his first-ever appearance at the United Nations as Iran’s leader an opportunity to explain to the world alleged “malice” that unspecified nations and world powers have towards Iran, but he went no further.
Iran has faced international criticism over the death of a woman detained by morality police, which has sparked days of protests including clashes with security forces in the capital and other unrest that claimed at least three lives.
The UN human rights agency called for an investigation. The United States called on Iran to end the “systemic persecution” of women. Italy also condemned her death.
Iranian officials dismissed the criticism as politically motivated and accused unnamed foreign countries of fueling the unrest.
Pia Sarkar, a Philadelphia-based journalist for The UK Time News, is on assignment for the UN General Assembly. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PiaSarkar_TK and for more UKTN coverage from the UN General Assembly, visit https://apnews.com/hub/united-nations-general-assembly