Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City on Saturday. Pool photo by Eduardo Munoz/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 21 (UPI) -- The 76th United Nations General Assembly began in earnest on Tuesday and U.S. President Joe Biden made his first address at the diplomatic summit -- delivering a message of unity, security and progress on a wide range of issues including climate change and COVID-19.
Biden spoke second on the first day of the General Debate, following Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. He stressed working together to solve the most immediate problems globally while fighting cybercrime, protecting human rights and avoiding a "new Cold War" with adversaries like Russia and North Korea.
"The United States will compete and compete vigorously and lead with our values and our strength, to stand up for our allies and our friends and oppose attempts by stronger countries to dominate weaker ones by changing territory by force ... or disinformation," he said.
"What we are not seeking a new Cold War or a world divided into rigid blocks. The United States is ready to work with any nation that steps up and pursues peaceful resolutions to shared challenges even if we have intense disagreements in other areas."
The U.S. president stressed the ongoing threat of COVID-19 and said the world can act smartly and in unison to end the global health emergency, which is now close to two years old.
"We need to act now to get shots in arms as fast as possible and expand access to oxygen, tests and treatments to save lives around the world," he said. "For the future, we need to create a new mechanism to finance global health security."
Biden promised continued cooperation to help other countries with access to coronavirus vaccines, saying the world needs "science and political will" to end the crisis.
Turning to the Middle East, Biden called for Iran to rejoin the nuclear deal and said the Islamic country must never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon. He also said he believes in a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but admitted being "a long way off" of that goal.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, during his first speech before the assembly, accused the United States of using sanctions as a new form of warfare. He said he couldn't trust the United States after former President Donald Trump pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
"The world does not care for 'America First' or 'America's Back,'" Raisi said in a pre-recorded message screened before the assembled leaders. "We don't trust the promises made by the U.S. government."
Biden spoke little of the U.S. withdrawal in Afghanistan, but noted that his administration is planning to hold the Taliban accountable for their rule -- and to the promises they made to respect the rights of Afghan women and girls.
"We all must advocate for the rights of women and girls to use their full talents and contribute economically, politically, socially and pursue their dreams free of violence, intimidation," he said.
Now that the United States is no longer involved in an active war anywhere in the world, he said the U.S. military must now be a "tool of last resort, not our first."
"It should not be used to answer to every problem we see around the world," he said. "Today, many of our greatest concerns cannot be solved, or even addressed, through the force of arms."
In his remarks, Biden called on the international community to make greater progress to fight climate change, saying that 2021 has "brought widespread death and devastation from the borderless climate crisis."
"The extreme weather events that we have seen in every part of the world -- and you all know it and feel it -- represent what the secretary-general [Antonio Guterres] has rightly called 'code red for humanity,'" he said.
Biden's address stood in stark contrast with four years of bombast from Trump, who over his four speeches at U.N. headquarters in New York City touted "America first," belittled North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and other leaders and once drew laughter when he bragged about his accomplishments.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said the country would stop building coal plants in other countries.
"China will step up support for other developing countries in developing green and low-carbon energy and will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad," he said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told the General Assembly he plans to submit the Paris Agreement to the Turkish Parliament next month.
"Whoever has harmed Earth most, brutally exploited natural resources should also do the most to fight climate change," he said.
"It is possible to prevent coronavirus with vaccines, but there is no laboratory solution for climate change.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, during his speech, called for a formal declaration to the end of the Korean War.
"I once again urge the community of nations to mobilize its strengths for the end-of-war declaration on the Korean Peninsula," he said.
"I propose that three parties of the two Koreas and the U.S., or four parties of the two Koreas, the U.S. and China come together and declare that the war on the Korean Peninsula is over."
Colombian President Ivan Duque called for the international community to "Strengthen multilateralism in the area of health" and ensure the fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
"The divides existing between nations with regard to the process of vaccination are unprecedented," Duque said. "While some nations are acquiring additional doses for six or seven times the size of their population and are also announcing third booster shots, others have not even been able to inject one single dose of hope in their population."
Early session (begins at 9 a.m. EDT)
- Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro
- U.S. President Joe Biden
- Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih
- Colombia President Iván Duque Márquez
- Qatar leader Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani
- Slovakia President Zuzana Čaputová (prerecorded)
- Portugal President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa
- Kyrgyz President Sadyr Zhaparov (prerecorded)
- Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda
- Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev (prerecorded)
- DRC President Félix-Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo
- Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (prerecorded)
- Chilean President Sebastián Piñera Echenique (prerecorded)
- South Korean President Moon Jae-in
- Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
- Swiss President Guy Parmelin
- Chinese President Xi Jinping (prerecorded)
Afternoon session (begins at 3 p.m. EDT)
- Croatian President Zoran Milanović
- Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi (prerecorded)
- Peruvian President Pedro Castillo Terrones
- Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov (prerecorded)
- Finland President Sauli Niinistö
- Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte
- Rwanda President Paul Kagame (prerecorded)
- Argentina President Alberto Fernández (prerecorded)
- Palau President Surangel Whipps
- Romanian President Klaus Werner Iohannis
- Costa Rica President Carlos Alvarado Quesada
- Polish President Andrzej Duda
- Ecuador President Guillermo Lasso Mendoza
- Latvia President Egils Levits
- Bulgaria President Rumen Radev (prerecorded)
- Zambia President Hakainde Hichilema
- Hungarian President János Áder
- Central African Republic leader Faustin Archange Touadera
- Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo (prerecorded)
Many leaders also participated in Climate Week NYC on Monday, an event to showcase efforts to fight climate change. K-pop stars BTS also addressed the group, giving a youth perspective.