- Associated Press
Tuesday, September 20, 2022

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The Latest on the opening day of the U.N. General Assembly‘s annual high-level meeting (all times EDT):

8:25 p.m.


El Salvador President Nayib Bukele has told the U.N. General Assembly that wealthy countries should help - or at least not block - developing countries trying to chart their own paths, just days after announcing he would seek re-election despite a constitutional ban.

In thinly veiled language and metaphor, Bukele pushed back against criticism his administration has received from the United States and European Union for concentrating power and, more recently, suspending some constitutional rights under an ongoing six-month “state of exception.”

Bukele is highly popular in the tiny Central American country. Recent polls have shown his crackdown on powerful street gangs, in which more than 50,000 people have been arrested, has broad support. Human rights organizations within El Salvador and abroad say people are being arrested and jailed without evidence.

Bukele maintains that he is taking actions to improve El Salvador, and wealthy countries have no right to interfere.

“What they can’t do is come to our house to give orders,” he said. Bukele’s current term ends in 2024.

8:10 p.m.

Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi lashed out Tuesday against archrival Rwanda, reiterating at the U.N. General Assembly his claims that the Rwandan military is supporting a rebel movement in eastern Congo.

Rwanda’s leader is not due to address the General Assembly until Wednesday, but the Rwandan government has vigorously denied Congo’s allegations in recent months of military involvement in the crisis.

Hundreds have been killed and nearly 200,000 people displaced since the M23 rebels re-emerged last November in eastern Congo after nearly a decade of being largely inactive.

On Tuesday, Tshisekedi called on the M23 to withdraw immediately from occupied areas, which include the key town of Bunagana. And he called for “the unconditional ending of Rwandan support for this group.”

“Despite my goodwill and the outstretched hand of the Congolese people for peace, some of our neighbors could find nothing better to do than thank us through aggression and by supporting terrorist groups that are ravaging the east of (Congo),” he said.

6:45 p.m.

Seychelles President Wavel Ramkalawan is calling for “bold actions, not unfulfilled promises and pledges,” warning that the window of opportunity to address climate change is rapidly closing for island nations like his.

In addressing the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, Ramkalawan said the world “is on the cusp of ecological collapse.”

“Failing to act decisively and urgently now will lead to untold costs, with those least responsible for this calamity having to bear the heaviest price,” he said.

Seychelles, an archipelago nation in the Indian Ocean off Africa’s eastern coast, is under grave threat from rising sea levels caused by climate change.

Ramkalawan said the world must also confront the “injustice of having citizens of states least responsible for this unraveling climate induced disaster paying for the loss and damage caused by others.”

Along with climate change, the Seychelles and other island nations were hard-hit by the loss of tourism revenues during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the island nations have experienced the greatest economic loss from the pandemic.

Seychelles is made up of 155 islands, though nearly all its 100,000 citizens live on the main island, Mahe.

4 p.m.

Honduras President Xiomara Castro, the first woman elected to lead the country, has told the U.N. General Assembly her government is working on creating a more equitable economy.

Castro said she would put an end to monopolies and oligopolies that concentrate wealth in the hands of few and root out corruption.

Castro said context was necessary to understand the tens of thousands of Hondurans who have fled the country in caravans in recent years.

She blamed previous governments for driving Honduras deeply into debt and Hondurans deeper into poverty.

Her predecessor, Juan Orlando Hernández, served two terms, but was arrested after leaving office at the request of the U.S. government and extradited to stand trial on drug trafficking charges in New York.

3:50 p.m.

Leaders from Europe, the Americas and Africa called for urgent action and funding to ease a burgeoning global food security crisis that has been exacerbated by Russia’s war with Ukraine and threatens to get worse in coming years due to climate change.

Speaking Tuesday at a Global Food Security Summit on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly, the leaders demanded an end to the war, with each calling it a needless “aggression.” Spain’s prime minister accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of trying to “blackmail” the world with hunger by causing severe disruptions in the export of Ukrainian grain.

Last week, the U.N. food chief warned the world is facing a global emergency, with up to 345 million people headed toward starvation - and 70 million pushed closer to starvation by the war in Ukraine.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the numbers “staggering” and said that President Joe Biden would be announcing additional U.S. contributions to fighting the crisis on Wednesday. Blinken called on other countries to follow suit.

2:15 p.m.

Finland’s president is decrying the conflict in Ukraine as “brutal” and says Russia’s aggression can’t be accepted.

Addressing the United Nations at its General Assembly on Tuesday, President Sauli Niinisto said the international community “can’t accept, condone or normalize” aggression by Russia he called “cruel and unprovoked.”

Finland stirred Russian ire earlier this year after seeking to join NATO alongside Sweden. NATO rules require all 30 current member countries to approve of the additions; 27 have so far given their official support.

Niinisto said “ordinary people bear the brunt” of geopolitical tensions and called on the U.N.’s members to ask if more can be done.

1:50 p.m.

Qatar’s ruling emir vowed before the world’s eyes at the U.N. General Assembly to welcome all World Cup fans without discrimination for the global soccer tournament.

Fueled by energy exports, the tiny nation has spent an eye-popping $200 billion on infrastructure and related World Cup projects since winning the bid to host the five-week-long tournament. Some $6.5 billion of that was spent to build eight stadiums for the World Cup, which kicks off in November.

Qatar is hoping the event will draw billions in tourism dollars. Leaders also hope people will shed misconceptions they may have about Qatar.

Qatar is a conservative Muslim society, but will allow soccer fans to consume alcohol in designated areas at the tournament beyond existing hotel bars. It also insists that homosexual couples will be welcomed.

In his remarks at the United Nations, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thaniv cited a verse in the Holy Quran that states God created people as races and tribes to know one another.

Millions of South Asian migrant workers have worked to build the roads, transit system, high-rise towers and stadiums for the tournament. Some workers have died. Qatar has made significant reforms to its labor laws in recent years, but advocacy groups say authorities have arrested and deported workers who’ve protested delayed salaries.

1:10 p.m.

Colombia President Gustavo Petro has called for an end of the war on drugs, calling it “irrational.

The leftist president who took office last month urged world leaders to “Think of less profit and more love.”

As a major drug production country, Colombia has been ravaged by drug-related violence.

Petro also made a proposal to the U.N. General Assembly to forgive countries’ debt in exchange for their conservation of forests.

1 p.m.

Russia’s war in Ukraine is the conflict in the ex-Soviet sphere that has absorbed most of the world’s attention.

But a recent flare-up on the border between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan briefly took centerstage at the United Nations on Tuesday.

Sadyr Zhaparov, the president of Kyrgyzstan, was the seventh world leader to speak on the first day of the general debate. He used his allotted time at the dais to describe the territorial disputes engendered by the collapse of the Soviet Union. The fighting has killed at least two dozen people.

The clashes began last week, with each side trading blame while the genesis of the conflict remained unclear. Last year, at least 55 people were killed near the border following a dispute over water rights and Tajikistan’s installation of surveillance cameras.

Zhaparov identified Tajikistan as the instigator, saying his country was “deeply saddened by the unjustified armed aggressions” and willing to negotiate without ceding a “centimeter of its land.”

Tajik authorities have in turn accused Kyrgyzstan of aggression, including the destruction of a mosque and targeting of school. Late last week, the leaders of both countries met at a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Uzbekistan and agreed to work to stop the fighting.

A minister from Tajikistan will speak toward the end of the summit.

Kyrgyzstan is a close ally of Russia, which Zhaparov described as “our biggest strategic ally” in a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin last year. Zhaparov did not mention the Ukraine invasion during his speech at the U.N. General Assembly.

12:20 p.m.

NEW YORK - British Prime Minister Liz Truss says she wants to work more closely with U.K. allies as the world enters a “more insecure era.”

Truss, who took office just two weeks ago, is meeting fellow leaders including U.S. President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron in New York before making a speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday. The gathering was dominated by talk of the war in Ukraine and the energy crisis it has spawned.

Truss said Tuesday with an increasingly aggressive Russia and an assertive China, “We need to work more closely with our allies.”

But the new British leader has to build bridges with key allies left alienated by Britain’s handling of its departure from the European Union. Biden has expressed concerns that Brexit could destabilize peace in Northern Ireland, and EU leaders are angry at the U.K. government’s combative approach in post-Brexit trade talks.

12:15 p.m.

Ukraine is the chief topic on the first day of the U.N.’s general assembly meeting in New York.

World leaders responded to news that four leaders of Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine plan to hold referendums for the territories to become part of Russia.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told reporters that “sham referendums” on joining Russia in Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine are unacceptable.

Scholz told reporters in New York on Tuesday that “Ukraine has every right to defend the integrity and sovereignty of the country and its own democracy.”

Scholz’s office said that he reiterated that stance in a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meeting. He said the referendum results won’t be recognized.

Erdogan said Turkey will continue efforts to end the war, to find a diplomatic solution that allow sides emerge from the war in an “honorable way.”

11 a.m.

Senegalese President Macky Sall has told the U.N. General Assembly that Africa must play a larger role in international decision-making.

Sall said Tuesday that Africa has suffered enough of the burden of history, and wants to be a pole of stability and opportunity. Sall, the current chairperson of the African Union, called for the continent to have a seat in the influential G20 group of nations.

In his comments to the U.N., Sall also pressed for a “fair and equitable energy transition,” emphasizing that more than 600 million Africans still lack access to electricity on a continent of 1.4 billion.

10:45 a.m.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, who is seeking reelection next month, used his speech at the U.N. General Assembly to promote the merits of his administration.

Bolsonaro’s speech Tuesday focused heavily on the economy, starting with the welfare program distributed to millions of Brazilians during the pandemic. The program was recently renewed until December. Bolsonaro also stressed a falling unemployment rate and disinflation in Latin America’s largest nation.

He also took a dig at his main rival, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who leads all polls to return to the presidency he held between 2003 and 2010. Bolsanaro pointed to da Silva’s conviction on money laundering and corruption charges.

The far-right leader also defended Brazil’s willingness to negotiate over the Russian invasion of Ukraine, calling for a ceasefire but renouncing sanctions and economic isolation.

Bolsonaro was the first world leader to speak during debate on the first day of the U.N. General Assembly’s meeting. U.S. President Joe Biden would traditionally speak second, but his time was pushed to Wednesday because of the funeral of England’s queen.


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