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Not the usual type of UN summit: 69th UN General Assembly opens in New York

24.09.2014 - Article

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier attended the opening of the 69th UN General Assembly in New York on Wednesday, 24 September. In the run-up to the assembly, Steinmeier said that the unusually high concentration of crises and conflicts shows how urgently the United Nations are needed, particularly now, in order for the international community to join forces in searching for solutions to supraregional conflicts.

Opening statement at the start of the UN General Assembly
Opening statement at the start of the UN General Assembly© Photothek/Köhler

In his opening statement prior to the start of the 69th UN General Assembly in New York, Foreign Minister Steinmeier said that this was not the usual type of UN summit. “It has been a long time since we have experienced so many crises and conflicts at one time,” he said.

Steinmeier pointed out that the General Assembly also provided an opportunity to recognise how urgently the United Nations are currently needed.

The United Nations will never be perfect, but it is perhaps the only international institution that allows us to examine conflicts and crisis regions from all sides and to look for a solution together.

He added that this year’s General Assembly also gives Germany a chance to present important projects and set the tone for the start of its presidency of the G7. The G7 foreign ministers meeting on 25 September marked the official start of Germany’s presidency of the G7.

ISIS, Ukraine and Ebola topped the agenda

Steinmeier on his way to the opening of the 69th UN General Assembly
Steinmeier on his way to the opening of the 69th UN General Assembly© Photothek/Köhler

Steinmeier said that this year’s General Assembly was dominated by three main conflicts: the fight against the ISIS terrorist group, the conflict in Ukraine, and the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

“A first step has been taken in the joint fight against ISIS. It is striking that several of Iraq’s neighbouring Arab nations have also joined the international efforts. In addition to military means, we now also need to draw up a common political strategy.” Steinmeier said that the international community is also still facing a significant challenge as regards the political and economic stabilisation of Ukraine.

Looking at the dramatic development of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, he admitted that the international community had not been adequately prepared for the scale of the epidemic. He said that it was now all the more important that every country does its part to prevent the spread of Ebola as quickly as possible. Germany’s support in the fight against Ebola includes providing humanitarian assistance, clinics and help with transport logistics.

“Unequivocal call” by US President Obama

US President Obama addressing the UN General Assembly
US President Obama addressing the UN General Assembly© Photothek/Köhler

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and US President Obama also outlined the current supraregional conflicts in their speeches to the General Assembly. President Obama said that all nations shared responsibility for the fight against the ISIS terror militia group, resolving the crisis in Ukraine and curbing the Ebola epidemic.

Afterwards, Foreign Minister Steinmeier reiterated the “ardent, unequivocal call by President Obama for a resolute and united approach by the international community in the Middle East”.

Large numbers of bilateral and multilateral meetings

Steinmeier with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein
Steinmeier with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein© Photothek/Köhler

Steinmeier also made use of the first day of the general debate to hold a large number of bilateral meetings, which included talks with OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Swiss President, Didier Burkhalter, as well as with Algerian Foreign Minister Lamamra and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif. Along with Germany’s Human Rights Commissioner, Christoph Strässer, Steinmeier also met UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein. Steinmeier and Strässer welcomed the fact that Germany will shortly chair the Human Rights Council when it takes over the presidency from Gabon in 2015.

Prior to a multilateral meeting with the Syrian opposition, Foreign Minister Steinmeier also held talks with the president of the Syrian National Coalition, Hadi al-Bahra.

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