UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Welcome to the United Nations. Over the course of the next week, leaders from scores of countries will take the marbled dais that, despite being geographically located in midtown Manhattan, belongs to the world. It's part of the U.N. General Assembly's General Debate, in which a parade of speakers will cycle through the iconic hall from Tuesday, Sept. 19, through Tuesday, Sept. 26.
At the United Nations and on the sidelines, pressing topics will reflect the myriad global crises at hand: climate change, rampant inequality, Russia’s war in Ukraine, public health and geopolitical instability, among others. Presidents, prime ministers, monarchs and other high-ranking representatives are convening under the 78th session's theme of “Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity: Accelerating action on the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals towards peace, prosperity, progress and sustainability for all.”
Check back here throughout for live updates from The Associated Press in and around the U.N. General Assembly, as leaders address and engage with their peers, constituencies at home and the world at large. A team of AP staffers at the United Nations, around New York and across the globe is providing highlights, analyses and key context in all formats.
GREECE AND TURKEY MEET ON SIDELINES
The leaders of Greece and Turkey agreed Wednesday to continue high-level meetings over the next three months, aimed at deescalating tension that has troubled the two NATO members for years.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis met with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey on the sidelines to discuss a so-called positive agenda, designed to take attention off long-standing disputes.
“We agreed to continue working to deepen the positive climate in Greek-Turkish relations that has been established in recent months,” Mitsotakis said, speaking to Greek reporters in New York after the hourlong meeting.
The two neighbors are at odds over sea boundaries and drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean — a dispute centered around boundary lines around numerous Greek islands, mostly in the Aegean Sea.
Greek government officials said top diplomats from the two countries would meet again over the next two months and that a joint cabinet meeting would be held in December in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki.
BIDEN'S TIE MEANT TO SHOW SOLIDARITY WITH STRIKING UAW WORKERS
Biden was purposefully wearing a red tie at the sit-down on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly to show his solidarity with the striking UAW workers, according to the White House. There are roughly 13,000 workers striking at three different factories run by General Motors, Ford and Stellantis, the owner of Chrysler. The UAW has threatened to expand the strike unless progress is achieved by Friday.
After opening statements at the Netanyahu meeting, journalists shouted questions about Israel. (Biden has previously expressed misgivings about Netanyahu’s plans to restructure the Israeli court system and the possible erosion of checks and balances.)
The U.S. president turned to Netanyahu and said: “Surprised they haven’t asked me about the auto strike. They usually ask about things that have nothing to do with what we’re talking about.”
BIDEN AND NETANYAHU HAVE LONG-AWAITED MEETING
U.S. President Joe Biden held a long-awaited meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, but the setting was much different than when the two countries’ leaders usually sit down together.
Instead of welcoming Netanyahu to the Oval Office, Biden met with him at a hotel in New York, where both were in town for the General Assembly.
The location is a reflection of Biden’s discomfort with Netanyahu’s attempt to weaken the independence of Israel’s judicial system.
Anti-Netanyahu protesters gathered near the hotel, waving Israeli flags and denouncing his policies as a threat to democracy. Hundreds more demonstrated outside the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv.
Biden made a glancing reference to the controversy, saying he plans to discuss some of the “hardest issues,” including “upholding democratic values that lie at the heart of our partnership, including checks and balances in our systems.”
He also left open the possibility of another, more prestigious meeting, saying “I hope we’ll see each other in Washington by the end of the year.”
Netanyahu said “one thing will never change is Israel’s commitment to democracy.”
He also thanked Biden for his work to normalize diplomatic relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, describing it as “something within our reach.”
CYPRUS PRESIDENT VOWS NEVER TO ACCEPT ISLAND'S DIVISION
The president of Cyprus, Nikos Christodoulides, has vowed to never accept the island’s division as a basis for an internationally backed solution, as the ethnic divide in Cyprus approaches the half-century mark.
The Mediterranean island has been split — with Greek Cypriots in the south and Turkish Cypriots in the breakaway North — since a Turkish invasion in 1974 in the wake of a failed coup by supporters for a union with Greece. Christodoulides heads the internationally recognized government in the south.
He addressed remarks made a day earlier by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who described U.N. resolutions as outdated and called for a deal based on the existence of two sovereign states.
“I want to take this opportunity to also send a personal message to President Erdoğan,” Christodoulides said. “There is not and never will be any basis for a settlement of the Cyprus question other than (the one) dictated by the U.N. Security Council resolutions.”
RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER ATTENDS DRONE EXHIBITION IN IRAN
TEHRAN, Iran — Russia’s defense minister has attended an exhibition of Iranian-made military drones and missiles after Iran’s president denied supplying weapons for Moscow’s war on Ukraine.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu arrived in Tehran on Tuesday and met with top officials to discuss the longstanding military and defense cooperation between the two countries.
The official IRNA news agency ran an image of Shoigu viewing the various weapons in an outdoor space. The semiofficial Tasnim news agency, believed to be close to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, ran video footage.
Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi on Monday denied his country had sent drones to Russia in a meeting with media executives on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. Russian attack drones and missiles have wreaked havoc on Ukrainian cities, often killing civilians.
Iran has acknowledged sending drones to Russia before its February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
U.S. and European officials say the sheer number of Iranian drones being used in the war shows that the flow of such weapons has not only continued but intensified after hostilities began. The White House has even said that Iran is helping Russia to build its own drone manufacturing plant east of Moscow.
KAGAME A FAMILIAR FACE AS ONE OF AFRICA'S LONGEST-SERVING LEADERS
He is only 65 but has been president of Rwanda for ⅓ of his life.
Paul Kagame has been in power since 2000, making him one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders and the de facto leader of the East African nation since its 1994 genocide.
If he contests next year’s election — as he said this week — and wins, he could remain a familiar face on the rostrum for at least another five years.
TURKEY'S ERDOGAN AND ISRAEL'S NETANYAHU MEET FOR THE FIRST TIME
It is the first time the two have met in person and comes as Turkey and Israel gradually improve ties after years of tension over Palestine.
The leaders discussed political, economic and regional issues, as well as the Israel-Palestine issue, according to a Turkish government statement.
Erdogan told Netanyahu that the two countries could cooperate on energy, technology, innovation, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, the statement added.
Relations between the former allies soured in 2010 when Israeli commandos killed 10 Turks in a raid on a ship attempting to breach its blockade on the Gaza Strip.
Later efforts to patch up relations stumbled over the killing of dozens of Palestinian protesters at the Gaza border in 2018.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog visited Ankara last year as Turkey embarked on a diplomatic push to revive relations with regional powers including Israel, the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
WELCOME TO DAY 2
We’re back with more from the U.N. General Assembly Hall and the sidelines of the summit.
First up for Day 2 of the General Debate is Seychelles, which AP’s Chinedu Asadu notes is Africa’s smallest nation — one whose land area is only slightly more than half of New York City.