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Steinmeier addresses the UN General Assembly: “We have a choice”

24.09.2016 - Article

On Friday (23 September), Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier addressed the United Nations General Assembly. He focused on the conflicts that most urgently require the international community’s attention. Steinmeier sent a very clear message with regard to the dramatic developments in Syria and the new conflicts the world is facing.

Foreign Minister Steinmeier speeking to the UN General Assembly
Foreign Minister Steinmeier speeking to the UN General Assembly

On Friday, the last day of this year’s United Nations General Debate, many countries are still scheduled to address the representatives who have gathered in the General Assembly Hall on New York's East River. Speakers include Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, as well as Foreign Minister Steinmeier.

The United Nations is more important than ever

Frank-Walter Steinmeier begins his speech with an appeal: “We can choose whether to put our faith in the power of diplomacy.” Is it even an option to shrug our shoulders at the violence we are witnessing? For Steinmeier, the answer is clear: withdrawal, resignation or going it alone cannot be the answer in a world full of conflicts.

However, all of us here, we as politicians, have a choice. The choice between resignation or engagement – in the face of these crises. Between isolation or multilateral cooperation. Between national navel-gazing or shared responsibility for one another. We have the choice: do we relinquish the civilisational progress achieved by the founding generation of the United Nations after experiencing two world wars and turn back – to the 19th century? Do we return to the era of fragile, purpose-oriented power alliances and power struggles among nation-states? Or do we move forward and work together to master the challenges of the 21st century?

Syria: Moscow has a responsibility

Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the UN General Assembly
Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the UN General Assembly© photothek.net

The Foreign Minister makes clear that, although setbacks may occur, Germany will not stop doing everything within its power to work towards peaceful solutions and negotiations. Therefore, despite the nascent cease-fire that fell apart in Syria, Steinmeier is continuing to fight for the grounding of military aircraft – and making a direct appeal to those in a position of responsibility: “Assad’s air force must cease its attacks. I believe that Moscow has a responsibility to help bring this about,” Steinmeier said.

The war in Syria is the most urgent, however not by far the only, crisis the world is facing. In his speech, Steinmeier defined the objective and focus of German foreign policy. For the foreign minister, this is the determination to pursue the search for common answers to conflicts, and to shape a just and sustainable world order.

Campaign for a seat on the UN Security Council

Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the UN Generel Assembly
Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the UN Generel Assembly© photothek.net

Germany is one of the world’s largest donors of humanitarian assistance, and as a globally interconnected country it is seeking to assume yet more international responsibility. This is why Germany is applying for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council for the 2019–2020 term. “Peace, Justice, Innovation and Partnership – they are the leitmotif of our candidature, and we will be guided by them,” Steinmeier says.

Even with all of the troubling news this week, Foreign Minister Steinmeier ends his speech on an optimistic note. “Despite crises and conflicts, I still firmly believe that the future lies in our hands,” Steinmeier says and goes on to emphasise: “We have the choice. But we have to decide!”

Speech by Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly

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