Fri, 08 Dec 2023

Biden Gears Up for UNGA, Central Asia Summit

Voice of America
19 Sep 2023, 16:05 GMT+10

NEW YORK - President Joe Biden is in New York ahead of his speech at the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday, where he will attempt to convince leaders that his vision of American leadership and multilateral approach to foreign policy will help solve the world's most pressing problems.

Some of those problems include climate change and an ongoing war in Ukraine that has far-reaching impact on the global supply chain and inflation.

Biden may have the opportunity to dominate diplomatic engagements in New York, as leaders of U.S. adversaries are skipping the gathering. Russian President Vladimir Putin, facing an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court, will not be attending. Neither will Chinese President Xi Jinping, or his top diplomat, Wang Yi.

A key goal for Biden in his speech is to maintain support for Ukraine amid increasing calls from countries in the Global South to fast-track peace negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv. The citizens of these developing countries bear the burden of the conflict's toll on global energy and food prices and are increasingly concerned about the prospects of a protracted war.

While there is no uniform 'Global South' view of the war, most non-Western U.N. members want to see a diplomatic settlement to the war sooner than later, said Richard Gowan, a U.N. expert at the International Crisis Group.

"Even some of those who sympathize with Ukraine think that Kyiv should start negotiating while Russian troops are still on its territory," Gowan told VOA. "The fact that the Ukrainian counteroffensive has made few spectacular gains adds to their sense that it is time for diplomacy."

White House officials underscore that Washington would support peace negotiations that lead to a "just peace" in Ukraine based on the principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty.

"We have, over the course of the past several months, built a strong engagement and dialogue with the Global South on what ultimately a just peace looks like," National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters in a briefing on Friday. "It does not seem that Russia is particularly serious about that at the moment."

Key to that dialogue is a bilateral meeting planned Wednesday with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the incoming chair of the 20 largest economies, or G20. A vocal advocate of the Global South, Lula has criticized the West of prolonging the conflict by providing military support to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's government and pushed for peace talks.

Zelenskyy will have a chance to make his own case on Tuesday when he speaks directly to the General Assembly - his first appearance in front of the world body since Russia's invasion.

The Ukrainian leader will be welcomed at the White House on Thursday.

Central Asian Summit

On Tuesday, Biden is also set to hold a summit with leaders of the five Central Asian countries: Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The dialogue between the United States and these countries, referred to as the C5+1 format, began in 2015, but Tuesday's meeting would mark the first time an American president meets with the leaders together.

Regional security, climate change, trade and connectivity, and ongoing reforms to improve governance and the rule of law, would be the focus of the summit, according to the White House.

The meeting is part of the administration's strategic move to embrace the region, where the U.S. had less influence compared to that of Russia and China. Both Xi and Putin met with these Central Asian leaders earlier this year.

Also Tuesday, Biden will meet with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Biden also will host the traditional reception with world leaders in the evening.

Bilateral with Netanyahu

Another key meeting on the sidelines of UNGA is Biden's meeting Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This would be Biden's first in-person engagement with Netanyahu since the Israeli leader's electoral victory last November and the establishment of the country's most right-wing government in history.

Biden and some Democrats have expressed disapproval of hard-line policies coming out of Netanyahu's government, including its judicial overhaul plan that critics say is a danger to the country's democracy. Biden and Netanyahu are also at odds over Israeli expansion of settlements in the West Bank and the U.S.'s request to reopen a consulate in Jerusalem for Palestinian citizens.

At the same time, Washington is working on a deal to facilitate Israel to normalize diplomatic relations with its Arab neighbors, including Saudi Arabia.

While in New York, Biden will also be attending campaign events, including one Tuesday evening billed "Broadway for Biden."

Anita Powell contributed to this report.

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