News / Middle East

    Syria Crisis Likely to Overshadow UN General Assembly

    Margaret Besheer
    On Tuesday, world leaders will meet in New York for their annual gathering at the United Nations General Assembly. The crisis in Syria is likely to dominate this year’s meetings.

    When most people think of the U.N. General Assembly, they think of the annual debate, where there is a parade of world leaders to the green marble podium in the great hall talking about what is of deepest concern to their country.

    And while this year attention is likely to focus on the speeches of countries involved in the Arab Spring and the eurozone financial crisis, much of the real action will happen away from the podium at private meetings between leaders and at side events attended by ministers and sometimes even presidents and prime ministers.

    African crises figure prominently on this list, with separate high-level meetings scheduled to discuss hunger and violence in the Sahel, the disputes between Sudan and South Sudan, and Somalia’s transition.

    But likely to cast a long, dark shadow over the proceedings will be the year-and-half-old conflict in Syria, where more than 20,000 people have died and millions more are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.

    U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters that Syria would be his top priority.

    “I am going to have bilateral meetings with more than 120 leaders this time.  Syria will be on top of my agenda, I believe Syria will be top of every leader’s mind.  So we have to address this issue most urgently,” Ban said.  

    The U.N. Security Council has been polarized over Syria, with Russia and China using their veto three times to block council action.  In spite of the paralysis, the council will have a meeting with ministers from the Arab League on Wednesday to discuss their relationship, which will also provide a forum to discuss Syria.

    But Century Foundation senior fellow Jeffrey Laurenti says it is unlikely the council will be able to break its months-long impasse and do anything meaningful to end the Syrian crisis.

    “The reason is that the Russians and the Chinese, and other states -- the Pakistanis too -- have deep reservations about trying to coerce a sovereign, recognized government into giving up power, and the Americans and the west Europeans and many of the Arab states clustered around Saudi Arabia and now Egypt, believe that [President Bashar] Assad has to go,” Laurenti said.

    Another potential crisis world powers will consider is Iran’s nuclear program.  The United States and other nations fear Iran wants a nuclear bomb, but Tehran says its program is peaceful.  A recent report from the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran has not done enough to allay its concerns that Tehran's nuclear pursuits do not have a military dimension.

    On Thursday, political directors from the permanent five U.N. Security Council powers - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany, will meet on the margins of the General Assembly to discuss how to move forward on Iran.  Jeffrey Laurenti says the message of that meeting will be international unity to increase pressure on Tehran.

    “I think that the P5+1 … are going to reinforce the message of their unity on this and on the conditions that Iran has to meet, that they will spell out,” Laurenti said.

    But beyond world crises, one growing success story is likely to garner a lot of attention -- the transition of Burma, also known as Myanmar -- to democracy and the presence this year of its President Thein Sein at the annual debate.

    But perhaps stealing some of his limelight is a U.S. tour by National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    Freed from years of house arrest in November 2010, she visited the United Nations on Friday to meet with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Burmese staffers.  Aung San Suu Kyi was herself a staff member here from 1969 to 1971.

    You May Like

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora