UN General Assembly updates: Egyptian FM stresses the country’s right to Nile water

Follow along for the latest updates as Middle East leaders head to New York for the annual UN General Assembly.

The United Nations’ annual gathering of world leaders gets underway this week, with a lineup of speeches from Middle East heads of state including Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

Both US President Joe Biden and Raisi will give remarks on Wednesday, but the two men are not expected to meet face-to-face while in New York. Ahead of his planned address, Raisi told CBS he didn’t believe such a meeting would be “beneficial.”

Live updates (all times EDT):

Saturday, Sept. 24

— 5:00 p.m. Saudi foreign minister addresses regional issues

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud touched on several issues in the Middle East and North Africa while addressing the General Assembly.

Saud first called for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He also expressed Saudi Arabia’s commitment to a truce in Yemen, and specifically demanded an end to the Houthi siege of Taiz.

The prince also praised Saudi Arabia recently connecting its electric grid to power-starved Iraq.

On Syria, Saud mentioned the importance of providing humanitarian assistance.

Saud spent somewhat more time on Libya, saying the country needs “structural and economic reforms.” He said the government must gain full control of the country.

“Libya should not be a breeding ground for drug dealers and terrorists,” he said.

Saud added that the kingdom supports the cease-fire in Libya.

Saud also addressed the controversy of Ethiopia’s mega-dam on the Nile river, saying Saudi Arabia supports the “water needs” of Egypt and Sudan.

The speech did not focus on Saudi Arabia’s geopolitical foe Iran, but Saud mentioned support for the International Atomic Energy Association’s efforts to regulate nuclear threats.

— 3:32 p.m. Egyptian foreign minister stresses importance of Nile river dam dispute

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry addressed several issues during his speech before the UN General Assembly.

Shoukry spent considerable time talking about the need for more international cooperation, particularly with regards to water and food scarcity on the African continent. He also said Egypt is looking forward to hosting the UN climate change conference in November.

The diplomat also addressed the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, aka GERD. Egypt wants a binding, legal agreement before Ethiopia further fills the dam, considering the filling to be a threat to the Nile river’s water levels in Egypt.

Shoukry said that water scarcity issues in Africa are not entirely due to a lack of resources of declining rainfall.

“It could be the result of the disrespect of the rules of international law and the attempt of some countries upstream to monopolize water resources and deprive downstream countries of the water that flows as a common good for all,” he said in reference to Ethiopia, which is upstream on the Nile from Egypt.

“We will never let go of the rights of Egyptians to the water of the Nile,” he added.

Shoukry also endorsed holding elections in Libya, and called for an end to the presence of foreign forces and non-state militias in the country. He also expressed support for a future Palestinian state.

Shoukry sat down with Al-Monitor President Andrew Parasiliti earlier this week to further discuss the prospects of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Read the interview here.

— 4:14 a.m. Emirati and Russian foreign ministers talk Ukraine war

Emirati state media reported that UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan met with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the assembly. They discussed the war in Ukraine, with Nahyan offering the Emirates’ help to find a peaceful resolution.

— 4:12 a.m. Iran’s top diplomat meets with Azerbaijan, Jordan

Iran’s Foreign Ministry said that Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian met his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov in New York amid renewed fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia over territorial disputes. Amir-Abdollahian conveyed Iran’s “opposition to any change to the geopolitical map and borders of the region,” according to a tweet from the Iranian Foreign Ministry. Iranian state media also reported that Amir-Abdollahian met Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi. The two discussed Palestinian affairs and Amir-Abdollahian expressed a desire to have stronger bilateral relations.

Friday, Sept. 23

— 5:00 p.m. Iraqi prime minister talks political crisis, climate change at UN

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi discussed a variety of issues facing Iraq at the General Assembly.

Kadhimi began by discussing Iraq’s efforts to recover from the Islamic State.

“Iraq looks forward to further United Nations support to reconstructing the areas liberated and affected by the occupation of ISIS terrorists,” said Kadhimi.

The prime minister talked about the importance of international cooperation throughout the speech, specifically with regards to fighting terrorism and dealing with COVID-19.

On the Islamic State, Kadhimi also praised Iraq’s efforts to repatriate Iraqis from the al-Hol camp in Syria and reintegrate them into Iraqi society.

Kadhimi also addressed Iraq’s political crisis, calling for ”serious and transparent dialogue” between all parties to finally form a government. He did not directly address the political violence over the summer, but said “Iraq is keen to be a source of stability.”

Kadhimi also discussed climate change issues, particularly southern Iraq’s drying up marshes and desertification in the country. He said regional states need to cooperate to address water scarcity.

To end his speech, Kadhimi expressed support for the Palestinian cause and for political dialogue in Syria that includes “all parties.”

— 3:57 p.m. US and Europe issue statement on Libya

Diplomats from the United States, France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom met at the UN General Assembly to discuss the situation in Libya. They issued a statement expressing their support for UN efforts to help Libya “free, fair, and inclusive presidential and parliamentary elections throughout Libya in the shortest possible time,” according to a US State Department statement.

— 2:19 p.m. Arab states discuss Palestine, Ukraine, food insecurity

Diplomats from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Arab states met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. They discussed issues in the Palestinian Territories, Yemen, Syria, the Russia-Ukraine war and food insecurity, Iraqi state media reported.

— 11:40 a.m. Turkish foreign minister promises to visit Lebanon

Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdullah Bou Habib met his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu on the sidelines on the UN General Assembly. Cavusoglu promised to visit Lebanon and help rehabilitate the Foreign Ministry building in Beirut, Lebanese state media reported.

— 11:25 a.m. Palestinian president says Israel impeding two-state solution, offers plan for peace

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas discussed the State of Palestine’s request for full UN membership and the potential for peace with Israel during his General Assembly speech.

The longtime Palestinian leader began the speech with some harsh words for Israel, saying the country is not committed to peace with the Palestinians.

“We don’t have an Israeli partner anymore to whom we can talk. Israel is ending its relationship with us,” said Abbas. “It is making the relationship between Israel and the State of Palestine a relationship between an occupying state and an occupied people.”

The Palestinian Authority that Abbas leads refers to itself as the State of Palestine at the UN.

Abbas cited the growth of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Israel’s controversial demolitions of Palestinian homes in the territory and violence from radical Jewish nationalist groups against Palestinians as evidence that Israel does not want peace. Abbas often held up pictures to demonstrate his point, showing a home demolition, for example.

Abbas specifically appealed to the United States in the speech, pointing out that Palestinian Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed by Israeli military fire in May, was a US citizen.

“Israel is killing our people with impunity as it did with the Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh,” said Abbas. “I dare the United States to prosecute those who killed this American national.”

He later made an “official request” that the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel apologize for the crimes committed against Palestinians.

“States like the United States pretend to uphold international law and human rights while at the same time providing unlimited sums to Israel, protecting Israel from accountability and encouraging Israel to pursue hostile policies” he said.

Abbas also addressed the Israeli people, asking “do the Israeli people want to remain a colonizing people forever?”

As expected, Abbas also asked for full membership in the UN. He also said that the Palestinian Authority will soon begin seeking membership in other international organizations, such as the World Health Organization, aka WHO. The Palestinian Authority only has observer status in the UN, at present.

The speech ended on a somewhat more upbeat note. Abbas said it was a “positive development” that Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said he supports a two-state solution to the conflict. Lapid made the remarks during his own speech before the General Assembly Thursday.

“We want peace. We are fighting terrorism wherever it is,” said Abbas, saying he does not want to resort to terrorism.

Israel has said it is ready to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority, but the PA has said certain preconditions need to be met for talks to resume. Abbas said that this still applies.

“You cannot negotiate with me while you are expanding the settlements and killing and demolishing, no,” he said.

— 7:30 a.m. Palestinian president Abbas to demand recognition of Palestinian state

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will address the UN during the 9:00 a.m. session of the General Debate today, and is expected to demand recognition of a Palestinian state. Earlier, Abbas met met Syrian Foreign Minister Fayysal Mikdad during the UN General Assembly to discuss the situation in the Palestinian territories, Syrian state media reported.

Thursday, Sept. 22

— 11:30 p.m. Saudi and Venezuelan foreign ministers meet

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah met his Venezuelan counterpart Carlos Faria Tortosa at the General Assembly to discuss improving bilateral relations, Saudi state media reported.

— 1:04 p.m. Israel’s Lapid has harsh words for Iran, offers peace to Palestinians

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid focused heavily on Iran’s threat to Israel before the UN General Assembly, but also expressed a desire to live peacefully alongside a future Palestinian state.

Lapid began his speech by touting the Negev Summit held in Israel in March with diplomats from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco. He then moved on to attack criticism of Israel, including fake news about the country. Lapid cited an image that was widely circulated last year purportedly showing a Palestinian girl killed by an Israeli airstrike. The image was actually from Russia.

“The anti-Israel movement has been spreading these lies for years in the media on college campuses and on social media,” said Lapid, who added that critics of Israel should “come and visit.”

The prime minister next said that the Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for “conducting this orchestra of hate” about Israel. He then spent several minutes harshly criticizing Iran, mentioning the ongoing protests in Iran over the death of Mahsa Amini as well as the Ayatollah-inspired stabbing attack against Salman Rushdie.

“They even hate their own people. Young Iranians are suffering and struggling from the shackles of Iran’s regime and the world is silent,” he said. “Iran’s regime hates Jews, hates women, hates gay people, hates the West. They hate and they kill Muslims who think differently, like Salman Rushdie and Mahsa Amini.”

Lapid also focused on Iran’s nuclear program, saying that Iran would use a nuclear weapon if its gets one. Iran denies it seeking to build a nuclear bomb. Lapid said that the only way to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is to “put a credible nuclear threat on the table.”

As predicted by Israeli media, Lapid also discussed the possibility of a Palestinian state, saying it is the “right thing” for the conflict. Lapid said Israel’s condition for a future state is that it is “peaceful.”

“Put down your weapons and prove that Hamas and Islamic Jihad is not going to take over the Palestinian state you want to create…and there will be peace,” said Lapid, referencing the Gaza-based armed groups that intermittently fight Israel.

Lapid also said Israel would be willing to lift the blockade on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip if Palestinians there “stop firing missiles and rockets.”

Lapid concluded the speech with a call on Muslim countries to establish contact with Israel, specifically singling out Saudi Arabia.

“The Middle East is our home we are here to stay forever,” said Lapid. “We call upon every Muslim country, from Saudi Arabia to Indonesia, to recognize that and to come talk to us.”

— 10:20 a.m. Yemeni leader slams Houthi forces

The head of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council Rashad Mohammed Al-Alimi criticized the Houthi rebels in Yemen during his remarks to the UN. Alimi spent much of the speech blaming the Iran-backed forces for the humanitarian disaster in Yemen.

“The Houthi militia destroyed the conditions for people, the means of subsistence for people,” he said. “They believe they have been elected by God. They export violence across the border, they export hate speech.”

Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council is the internationally recognized government of the country, and its forces are supported by a Saudi-led coalition. It replaced the administration of longtime president Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, who was in charge from the start of the civil war in 2015 until April. A truce in Yemen also went into effect that month.

Alimi said the council is committed to the truce and working to tackle inflation and Yemen’s food crisis, as well as rebuilding security and judicial institutions.

Alimi also criticized Iran in relation to its support to Houthi forces.

“Iran is interfering in our domestic affairs in an absolutely unacceptable way,” he said. “Sanctions against that country need to be respected,” adding that Iranian drones are of particular concern.

Al-Monitor interviewed the US envoy to Yemen Timothy Lenderking on the sidelines of the General Assembly Wednesday. The diplomat said that he is “skeptical” of Iran’s actions in the country, despite its rhetoric.

Alimi concluded by addressing the potential environmental issues posed by the leaking oil tanker off the coast of Yemen, which he said could become a “disaster.”

— 8:20 a.m. Israel, Yemen to address General Assembly

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and the head of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council Rashad Mohammed Al-Alimi are scheduled to deliver speeches before the UN General Assembly during the morning session, which begins at 9 a.m. Lapid is expected to endorse a Palestinian state, which would be the first time an Israeli premier has done so at the forum in many years.

— 6:13 a.m. UAE and Ukrainian foreign ministers meet

UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan met his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba on the sidelines of the General Assembly. The two discussed improving bilateral relations, according to Emirati state media.

Wednesday, Sept. 21

— 7:09 p.m. Lebanese prime minister optimistic on Israel negotiations, frustrated by Syrian refugee crisis

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati addressed the maritime border dispute with Israel, Syrian refugees in Lebanon and the country’s economic crisis in front of the UN.

Mikati struck an optimistic tone on Lebanon’s indirect negotiations with Israel over their disputed sea border in the Mediterranean. He called the United States’ mediatory role “commendable” and referred to “significant progress” in the talks.

On the presence of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, the head of government sounded less positive. He referred to the Syrian refugee presence as a “burden of the displaced,” and pointed out that Lebanon’s confessional-based system of government prevents their permanent resettlement in the country.

“The only realistic solution is to achieve safe return of Syrians to their country,” said Mikati.

Mikati also addressed Lebanon’s worsening economic crisis. He said the country is working on laws to improve financial transparency and fight corruption.

The International Monetary Fund and Lebanon conditionally agreed on a loan in April. However, the IMF said this week that Lebanon’s progress on implementing the reforms necessary to unlock the loan have been “very slow.”

— 6:00 p.m. US, Saudi Arabia, France issue statement on Lebanon

Representatives from the United States, Saudi Arabia and France met on the sidelines of the General Assembly. The three countries then put out a statement calling on Lebanon to hold “timely” elections. They also pledged to help Lebanon institute reforms to address its harrowing economic crisis, according to a statement from the US State Department.

— 6:00 p.m. Top Russian, Turkish, Iranian diplomats, UN envoy held Syria talks

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian gathered in a new round of Astana talks, a political process set up between the three countries in a bid to find a diplomatic settlement to the Syrian crisis.

UN Special Syria Envoy Geir Pedersen also attended the meeting which was held at the Turkish consulate in New York City on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

The meeting came after intensifying intelligence contacts between Turkish intel chief Hakan Fidan and his Syrian counterpart Ali Mamlouk over the past weeks.

Tehran and Moscow, major allies of the Damascus administration in the Syrian civil war, have been pressing Ankara, which supports Syrian rebels, to engage into a political dialogue with Damascus.

In his UN General Assembly address on Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government as a “cruel regime.”

— 5:45 p.m. Ukraine’s Zelensky calls out Syria for voting against video address

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky criticized several countries — Syria among them — who voted against Ukraine at the United Nations.

Earlier this week, 101 countries voted to allow Zelensky to address the UN General Assembly via video message, which he wanted to do because of the ongoing war in the country. Only seven countries voted against his request. They are: Belarus, Cuba, North Korea, Eritrea, Nicaragua, Russia and Syria.

Zelensky named each of them during his video address, saying they are “afraid” of his message.

Syria’s vote is unsurprising due to Russia’s extensive support to the Syrian government in the Syrian civil war.

— 3:29 p.m. Erdogan meets Lebanese prime minister

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati on the sidelines of the General Assembly, according to a Turkish government tweet. Mikati is due to speak later.

— 1:22 p.m. Libyan leader stresses national unity

The head of Libya’s Presidential Council Mohamed al-Menfi spoke about the importance of unity in Libya during the UN General Debate.

“The Libyan people have demonstrated to the entire world that they represent a unified nation in spite of the challenges,” said Menfi.

The statesman said that division within Libya, which was embroiled in a civil war from 2014 to 2020, is the result of foreign intervention.

“Individual interests of different countries involved in the Libyan situation as well as proxy wars and diverging views on how to solve the situation in Libya have not given us an opportunity to develop our own national path,” he said.

Menfi discussed the importance of Libya’s national dialogue, which has been ongoing the ceasefire to end the civil war. At present, political actors have not yet agreed upon rules for new elections.

Menfi praised the African Union for helping Libya with its national dialogue.

On energy, Menfi said that Libya has “made all efforts” to restore gas and oil production.

— 11:38 a.m. Biden hits back at Iran, says US “stands with” protesters

US President Joe Biden expressed solidarity with protesters in Iran during his speech at the UN.

“Today we stand with the brave citizens and the brave women of Iran who right now are demonstrating to secure their basic rights,” said Biden.

Earlier, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi went on a lengthy tirade against the United States. Iran is experiencing massive protests in response to a woman who was allegedly beaten to death by police over her hijab.

Biden also addressed the negotiations over the Iranian nuclear deal, saying the US is committed to returning to the agreement if Iran starts complying with its stipulations again.

“The United States is clear will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon,” said Biden.

The president also endorsed a Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel and expressed support for the truce in Yemen.

— 10:45 a.m. Turkish and Finnish foreign minister talk NATO expansion

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met with his Finnish counterpart Pekka Haavisto to discuss Finland’s bid to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, aka NATO, according to a tweet from Cavusoglu.

— 10:00 a.m. Iran’s Raisi accuses US of “criminal behavior against humanity”

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi slammed the United States during his UN speech, accusing the country of creating the Islamic State (IS), using a “weapon of mass destruction” on Iran via sanctions, and more.

Raisi began his speech by accusing some countries of “double standards” when it comes to criticisms of Iran’s human rights record. Raisi cited reports of migrant children being put in cages by the US government to this end.

Raisi’s deflection came as Iran is engulfed by protests over the death of Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini, who was allegedly beaten to death by Iranian religious police over her hijab.

Throughout the speech, Raisi slammed US foreign policy, referring to civilian deaths in Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the 1953 US and British-backed coup in Iran.

The president also talked up Iran’s role in defeating IS, but did not mention others who fought the group, such as US-backed Kurdish forces in Syria. He did accuse the US of creating IS, referencing former President Donald Trump calling former President Barack Obama the “founder of ISIS” in 2016. Trump may have been referring to Obama’s military withdrawal from Iraq, which paved the way for IS’ rise.

At one point, Raisi held up a picture of the late Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani, who the US killed via an airstrike in Baghdad in 2020. Raisi specifically called out Trump for authorizing the operation.

“We will pursue through a fair tribunal those who martyred our beloved General Qasem Soleimani,” said Raisi.

Much of Raisi’s speech focused on the Islamic Republic’s anger over the Iran nuclear agreement. Raisi said “we saw a new face of criminal behavior against humanity,” when Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018 and imposed harsh sanctions.

The Biden administration is currently negotiating with Iran on a return to the agreement, which reduced sanctions on Iran in exchange for the scaling back of its nuclear program. Raisi said Iran is seeking guarantees the US will not leave again due to “lived experience.” He also again denied Iran is seeking to build a nuclear weapon.

The Islamic Republic’s anger over the nuclear dispute was apparent throughout the speech. He claimed that Iran is responsible for 2% of the world’s nuclear activity, but 35% of nuclear inspections.

Raisi also unsurprisingly criticized Israel. “Seven decades Israeli occupation and savagery is still with us and not ending,” he said. Raisi endorsed a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict whereby Palestinians of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths would vote in a referendum. Few Jews in Israel identify as Palestinian.

Raisi also praised some sectors of the Iranian economy, such as that of nanotechnology. He also praised Iran’s increasing trade with countries in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Al-Monitor observed some Iranian-Americans protesting outside of the UN headquarters in New York during Raisi’s speech. At least some of the protesters are affiliated with Mujahedin-e-Khalq opposition group, aka MEK.

Raisi spoke for around 35 minutes — well over the 15-minute limit set by the UN.

— 9:00 a.m. Raisi to address UN

The UN General Debate will hear from the following Middle Eastern and North African leaders during the day 2 of the General Debate 9 a.m. session: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, President of Libya’s Presidential Council Younis Menfi. Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati will speak during the 3:00 p.m. session.

Tuesday, Sept. 20

— 4:38 p.m. Erdogan meets leaders of Jordan, Israel

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Earlier in the day, Erdogan met Jordan’s King Abdullah II, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and others, according to press releases from the Turkish government. Erdogan’s meeting with Lapid was his first with an Israeli prime minister since 2008, indicating a further thaw in Israel-Turkey relations.

— 3:00 p.m. Israeli and Jordanian leaders meet

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid met with Jordanian King Abdullah II at the assembly. Lapid told the king that he wants the situation in Israel and the Palestinian Territories to calm before the Jewish High Holidays next week, according to a release from the Israeli government.

Lapid also met Greek Prime Minister Tuesday night, according to Lapid’s office.

— 2:32 p.m. Iranian President Raisi meets France’s Macron

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi met his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. The two discussed the talks over the Iran nuclear deal. Raisi criticized the International Atomic Energy Association in the discussion, saying their approach “should be technical and away from the pressures and suggestions of others.”

The UN-affiliated IAEA recently criticized Iran over allegedly unexplained uranium traces found in Iran.

Raisi also told Macron that better Iranian relations with Europe are contingent upon the continent showing that its “policies are independent and not subject to the will and policy of the United States,” according to a release from Raisi’s office.

— 2:23 p.m. Lebanese prime minister meets US negotiator

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Miktati met US energy envoy Amos Hochstein at the UN General Assembly. Hochstein is mediating the maritime border talks between Lebanon and Israel. Earlier, Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib held a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir Abdollahian, according to Lebanese media.

— 12:51 p.m. Qatari emir criticizes Syria normalization, defends fossil fuels

Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani appeared to criticize Arab states for repairing ties with the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during his UN speech.

“The international community was not able to hold war criminals in Syria accountable. What’s even more disappointing is that some are trying to turn the page of the Syrian crisis,” said Thani.

The quote is likely a reference to the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan and other regional states who are working to mend their relations with the Assad government in Syria. For years, Syria has been shunned by much of the Arab world due to the civil war in the country.

The emir also addressed the Iran nuclear deal talks, endorsing a new agreement and also the “right of the Iranian people to benefit from nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.”

Qatar notably has friendlier relations with Iran than its fellow Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia.

Thani also addressed the global energy crisis, and criticized the international community for seeking to abandon traditional fuel sources like oil and natural gas before renewable energy is further developed.

“Decades of pressure to stop investing in fossil fuels before having sustainable alternatives, that led to significant shortages in energy supplies,” he said.

Environmentally friendly energy sources like solar power are important, Thani said, though he added “in the meantime, we still have to supply energy.”

Thani also endorsed the creation of a Palestinian state, and called for dialogue in both Yemen and Libya, as well as a ceasefire in Ukraine. He finished his speech by talking up the 2022 World Cup, which Qatar will host in November.

—11:50 a.m. Erdogan addresses Syrian rapprochement

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressed his position on Syria during his speech in New York, slightly departing from his recent positive tone towards Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“We are ready to work with anyone who wants to contribute to the security and welfare of the region by cooperating with our country instead of terrorist organizations and cruel regimes,” said Erdogan, with “cruel regimes” likely referring to the Assad government.

In August, Erdogan said that toppling Assad is no longer on Turkey’s agenda. Last week, Erdogan reportedly said he would have met with Assad during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting in Uzbekistan had the Syrian leader been there. This marked a major policy shift for Turkey, which has directly supported Syrian rebel groups since the start of the war in 2011. Today’s comments could indicate a cooler approach to Assad from Erdogan.

Erdogan also addressed Kurdish-led forces in northeast Syria, repeating the assertion that groups within the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are affiliates of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is outlawed in Turkey.

“We call on those who attempt to legitimize the PKK with slyness like changing its name to stop arming and supporting terrorists as soon as possible,” said Erdogan.

The Turkish leader also addressed the conflict between Turkey’s ally Azerbaijan and Armenia. Erdogan said that Azerbaijan’s recent recapture of territories that were previously held by Armenia in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region provided a “window of opportunity” for a comprehensive peace deal between the two sides.

Erdogan also expressed support for peace between Russia and Ukraine, called for a breakthrough in the Iran nuclear deal talks and blamed Greece for deaths of migrants in the Aegean Sea, among other issues.

— 11:00 a.m. King Abdullah focuses on Jerusalem at UN, says Christianity “under fire”

Jordan’s King Abdullah II focused heavily on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during his speech, particularly religious tensions in Jerusalem.

“The holy city must not be a place for hatred and division,” said the king.

The Hashemite kingdom has custodianship over Muslim and Christian holy sites in the city. Abdullah referenced this in his remarks, and said that Christianity in particular is being threatened in the holy city, though he did not say by whom.

“Christianity in the holy city is under fire. The rights of churches in Jerusalem are threatened. That cannot continue,” he said.

Tensions between Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem have risen dramatically in the past year, and unrest in the city is part of what triggered the Israel-Gaza war and communal violence within Israel last year.

Abdullah also urged the international community to continue supporting Palestinian refugees via UNRWA. He expressed support for refugees in general, but also noted that the continued presence of Syrian refugees in Jordan has put “pressure on Jordan’s scarce resources.”

The king further mentioned the need to address food scarcity and climate change, particularly in the Middle East. He specifically praised Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain for working with Jordan on regional issues.

— 10:47 a.m. Chilean president address Israel-Palestine

Chilean President Gabriel Boric discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during his speech before the UN, expressing support for the Palestinian people’s “inalienable right to establish a free and sovereign state.” He also endorsed Israel’s “right to live safely within internationally recognized borders.” The South American leader is known for his pro-Palestine views, and recently made headlines in Israel when he refused to receive the Israeli ambassador’s credentials. Boric also mentioned the need to protect women around the world. He specifically mentioned Mahsa Amini, who died after being arrested by police in Iran in relation to her hijab.

— 9:23 a.m. UN Secretary General discusses Syria, Yemen

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addressed several conflicts in the Middle East during his speech to open the General Debate. On Syria, the Portuguese diplomat said that “violence and hardship still prevail” and lamented the continued Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying, “A nuclear deal with Iran remains elusive.” Guterres added that he sees “hope” in Yemen and that the cease-fire is “fragile but holding.”

— 9:00 a.m. General Debate begins

The following Middle Eastern leaders will address the United Nations during the 9:00 a.m. session Tuesday: Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani.

— 8:30 a.m. Blinken, Turkey’s Cavusoglu meet

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken praised Turkey’s role in the Ukrainian grain deal during a meeting Tuesday morning with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and other Turkish officials. According to a US readout, they “also discussed ways to advance coordination and NATO unity in response to Russia’s war against Ukraine.” In brief remarks before the meeting’s start, Cavusoglu said he and his US counterpart would discuss the war in Ukraine and developments in the South Caucasus. Last week, the United States and Turkey held their third strategic mechanism dialogue in Washington.

Monday, Sept. 19

— 9:03 p.m. Qatari and Iranian foreign ministers meet

Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani met his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian ahead of the General Debate to discuss bilateral relations as well as the Iran nuclear deal talks. “Looking forward to our cooperative efforts in this regard,” said Al Thani in a tweet.

— 5:15 p.m. Blinken meets with Egyptian FM Shoukry

Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with his Egyptian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on Monday evening. Their meeting at the Lotte New York Palace hotel comes less than a week after the Biden administration announced it was withholding a portion of Cairo’s annual military assistance over human rights concerns. Blinken noted there was “a lot to talk about,” including ways to advance regional security and the upcoming COP27 climate conference. Neither Shoukry nor Blinken mentioned human rights in their remarks to the press, but in attendance for the meeting was a senior State Department official on human rights, Erin Barclay.

— 1:45 p.m. Mideast leaders set to address UNGA General Debate

As officials and leaders arrive to New York, the General Debate of the United Nations’ General Assembly kicks off tomorrow and will go on until Monday, Sept. 26. The following world leaders from the Middle East and North Africa will speak from New York on day one of the debate, according to a UN schedule.

During the 9 a.m. session:

Jordan — King Abdullah II
Turkey — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Qatar — Emir Sheikh Tamim Bim Hamad Al-Thani

During the 3 p.m. session:

Morocco — Prime Minister Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani

The schedule for subsequent days has yet to be released.

Among those addressing the General Assembly will be Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. At last year’s summit, Abbas gave Israel a one-year deadline to withdraw from Palestinian terroritories, suggesting he would pursue charges at the International Criminal Court if it did not. Al-Monitor’s Daoud Kuttab reports that this year the Palestinian president will be changing course, demanding that the global community recognize Palestine as a state, even if it’s still under occupation. Check out the story here.

— 10:30 a.m. Blinken meets with Yemeni presidential leadership council

Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Yemeni Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) President Rashad al-Alimi in New York. According to a State Department readout of the meeting, Blinken and Alimi “discussed the urgency of extending and expanding the UN-mediated truce by October 2,” and “affirmed their support for additional steps under the truce, including opening roads in Taiz and other areas, expanding commercial flights from Sana’a airport, and ensuring salary payments to tens of thousands of teachers, nurses, and other civil servants who have for years worked without pay.”

— 10:00 a.m. Ahead of UN address, Iran’s Raisi says ‘no trust’ in US on nuclear talks

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi dismissed the possibility of a meeting with US President Joe Biden during this week’s UN General Assembly summit, where the Iranian leader will address the gathering of world leaders under a cloud of US sanctions and violent protests in Iran. Read the full story from Elizabeth Hagedorn in New York here.

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