In some of his strongest remarks against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, President Emmanuel Macron of France called Moscow’s war a return to “imperialism” in his address on the opening day of the 77th U.N. General Assembly.
“On the 24th of February this year, Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council, through an act of aggression and invasion and annexation, broke our collective security,” Mr. Macron said. “It deliberately violated the U.N. Charter and the principle of sovereign equality of states.”
Addressing world leaders who gathered for the first fully in-person General Assembly in three years, Mr. Macron said the war “is undermining the principle of our organization, is undermining the only possible world order, is undermining peace.”
The French leader rejected the stance of those nations that have remained “neutral” in the war, saying, “They are wrong; they are making a historic error.” Mr. Macron declared: “Those who are keeping silent today are, in a way, complicit with the cause of a new imperialism.”
It is not a matter of choosing between East and West, or north and south, Mr. Macron said, “because over and beyond war, there’s a risk of dividing the world.”
An avowed internationalist who has long tried to bring France back to the center of global diplomacy, Mr. Macron has spoken often with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia about the war, but has not appeared to have swayed Mr. Putin from his goals.
France rejects a return to imperialism, he said.
“That is why I engage in a dialogue with Russia and have done so since the start of the war and over these past months,” Mr. Macron said. “And I will continue to do this because it’s only together that we will find peace.”
Mr. Macron warned of a ripple effect from the conflict in Ukraine, saying that Russia had decided to pave the way for other “wars of annexation” around the world.
He called on the members of the U.N. Security Council “to act so that Russia rejects the path of war and assesses the cost for itself and for all of us — and, really, bring an end to this act of aggression.”
“We are all aware, as well, that negotiations will only be successful if Ukraine is liberated and its sovereignty is protected,” he said. “Russia must now see that it cannot impose its will militarily even if there are fake pretend referenda in the territories that have been bombed and occupied.”
As a member of the Security Council, France has been involved in major negotiations, such as talks to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Mr. Macron also met on Tuesday with President Ebrahim Raissi in New York, in an attempt to revive the 2015 nuclear deal that was scrapped during the administration of President Donald J. Trump.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, the mercurial leader who has tried to mediate with the Kremlin since Russia invaded Ukraine, addressed the United Nations on Tuesday morning, portraying himself as a mediator in the war just after calling for Russia to return captured territory.
“We think the war will never have a triumph, and a fair peace process will not have a loser,” he said in his address. “We are always underlining the significance of diplomacy in the settlement of the dispute.”
Mr. Erdogan touted Turkey’s role in the negotiations so far, most notably as a mediator along with the United Nations, in a deal to get grain exports out of Ukraine’s ports — what he called “one of the greatest accomplishments of the United Nations” in years.
“We need a dignified way out of this crisis, through a diplomatic process that is rational, fair and which is applicable,” he said.
In an interview broadcast on Monday, Mr. Erdogan said that Russia should return all Ukrainian territory it has captured, and indicated that negotiations that he has been helping mediate are moving in that direction.
“The lands which were invaded will be returned to Ukraine,” Mr. Erdogan said in an interview with “PBS NewsHour.” He was careful not to criticize President Vladimir V. Putin over his conduct of the war, but drew a clear line on the return of territory.
“This is what is expected,” Mr. Erdogan said. “This is what is wanted. Putin has taken certain steps. We have taken certain steps.”
“An invasion cannot be justified,” he added.
Mr. Erdogan has positioned himself as a mediator between Ukraine and Russia and hosted preliminary peace talks in Istanbul in March, although those discussions were inconclusive. He at first objected to the efforts by Sweden and Finland to join NATO, delaying their membership process. With U.N. mediators, he also successfully brokered a deal to allow grain exports out of Ukraine.
In the interview on Monday, he said Mr. Putin gave him the impression when they met recently in Uzbekistan that “he’s willing to end this as soon as possible.”
“This is a conflict that ended up in casualties,” Mr. Erdogan said. “The people are dying, and nobody will be winning at the end of the day.” He declined to comment on who had an advantage at this stage of the conflict, but said that Turkey could be a primary mediator between Russia and Ukraine for any peace talks.
Mr. Erdogan also expressed opposition to the annexation of Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Russia seized in 2014. He said he had repeatedly asked Moscow to “return Crimea to its rightful owners,” without result.
The relationship between the two autocrats has grown closer in recent years, defined by the fluctuating power dynamics and mutual interests. Turkey has opposed Russian’s invasion of Ukraine, but Mr. Erdogan has sought to maintain a close relationship with Mr. Putin, seeking to mitigate the fallout of the Ukrainian war in Turkey as he heads into an election year with his country’s economy imploding.
He has refused to apply Western economic sanctions against Russia’s industry and broader economy, and the two leaders have met several times to discuss expanding their diplomatic partnership and to negotiate economic cooperation.
The comments on Monday came as fighting erupted last week on the border of Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave at the center of a decades-long conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia — with Turkey supporting Azerbaijan and Russia having intervened to save Armenia. The deadly clashes have raised the prospect of Russia’s losing influence over the regional conflict after Moscow moved some of its troops from the south Caucasus to Ukraine.
The leaders of two Middle Eastern countries, Jordan and Qatar, brushed over the war in Ukraine during their speeches to the General Assembly to remind the gathered world leaders of a long unresolved issue in their own region: the fate of Palestinians.
King Abdullah II of Jordan, and the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, called for the establishment of a two-state solution, along the pre-1967 borders, that would recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.
Mr. Abdullah dedicated most of his speech on Tuesday on the need to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by recognizing the Palestinians’ right to self determination. He asked the international community to show more support for Palestinian refugees and renew and fund the U.N. programs that provide education and health for refugee children.
“In the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, peace continues to be elusive,” said Mr. Abdullah. “It is the people themselves, not politics and politicians, who will have to come together and push their leaders to resolve this.”
The emir of Qatar called on world leaders to “stand in full solidarity with brotherly Palestinian people in its aspiration to achieve justice.”
Mr. Al Thani also called for the U.N. Security Council to “compel Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian territories and establish a Palestinian state.”
Mr. Al Thani made references to multiple other crises and conflicts gripping the Middle East and Africa, from Syria to Yemen, Sudan, Afghanistan and Libya.
“Our issues and concerns are intertwined,” Mr. Al Thani said. “Global crises are being managed based on narrow interests, based on marginalization of international law, relying on balances of powers.”
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is among the issues expected to be overshadowed this year by some of the more immediate crises affecting the world, such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the rising price of food and climate change disruptions.
The Palestinians are a nonmember state of the United Nations and can participate at the General Assembly’s annual gathering. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, is scheduled to speak on Friday, and he is expected to call for recognition of a Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution.
Israel’s new prime minister, Yair Lapid, is slated to address the Assembly on Thursday. He told reporters that he plans to speak about Israel’s right to security and its desire for peace, “as well as Israel’s contribution to regional stability and international cooperation.”
Israeli media outlets reported that Mr. Lapid plans to have a bilateral meeting with Mr. Abdullah of Jordan, one of the Arab countries that has a diplomatic relationship with Israel and has influence over the Palestinian Authority.
The annual diplomatic gathering at the United Nations this week places the spotlight on its top chief, António Guterres, the secretary general, who is responsible for persuading an increasingly fractured and skeptical world that the U.N. — and, by extension, his position — is still vital for international order and multilateralism.
In his opening remarks Tuesday, Mr. Guterres said that the world was in peril, and geopolitical divides were undermining international law, trust in democratic institutions and all forms of international cooperation.
“We cannot go on like this,” Mr. Guterres said. “We have a duty to act. And yet we are gridlocked in colossal global dysfunction.”
In remarks that pivoted between alarm and hope, the secretary general made demands for collective action. He warned of a world burning because of climate change and said ideals of the U.N. charter — which pledges to end “the scourge of war” and to regain “faith in fundamental human rights” — are in jeopardy, alluding to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the inequalities that have exploded as food and energy prices rise.
“Let’s have no illusions. We are in rough seas,” Mr. Guterres said in one of the most blunt speeches he has delivered to world leaders.
Mr. Guterres identified three areas where he said world leaders should come together: peace and security, the climate crisis and addressing inequality in developing countries.
The war in Ukraine, Mr. Guterres said, has “unleashed widespread destruction with massive violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.”
The conflict unexpectedly elevated Mr. Guterres’s role as a humanitarian mediator. He has bluntly condemned Russia for violating the U.N. charter and called for investigations into potential crimes against humanity in Ukraine. And early on, he opened investigations into the rippling affects of the war on rising food and energy and economic downturn.
But Mr. Guterres also reminded the audience of other crises still posing a threat to global stability, such as Afghanistan, Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Israel and Palestine.
Turning to climate, Mr. Guterres accused the fossil fuel industry of “feasting on hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies and windfall profits” and called on the leaders of wealthy countries to issue additional levies to help vulnerable nations facing the irreparable damages of climate change.
“Today, I am calling on all developed economies to tax the windfall profits of fossil fuel companies,” he told the heads of state and other government officials gathered at the United Nations General Assembly hall. “Those funds should be redirected in two ways: to countries suffering loss and damage caused by the climate crisis, and to people struggling with rising food and energy prices.”
The call for action represents his most forceful comments yet on a lightning rod issue of loss and damage, which is polite diplomatic speak for reparations for poor countries that suffer the greatest effects of climate crisis but that bear little responsibility for it.
The issue of loss and damage financing is emerging as an important fault line in the upcoming climate negotiations in Egypt. The secretary general’s remarks sets up a potential showdown with the United States and the countries of Europe, who have long resisted the idea of a separate funding mechanism for loss and damage.
In the third part of his speech, Mr. Guterres emphasized the many challenges faced by developing countries, including food insecurity, debt and poverty, that has resulted in them “getting hit from all sides.”
“These cascading crises are feeding on each other, compounding inequalities, creating devastating hardship, delaying the energy transition, and threatening global financial meltdown,” Mr. Guterres said.
He called on banks to facilitate financial assistance for developing countries by lifting borrowing conditions and increasing their appetite for risk, while telling creditors to consider debt relief, particularly for climate funds. Mr. Guterres said the International Monetary Fund and major central banks must expand their liquidity facilities and currency lines significantly.
Somini Sengupta contributed reporting.
President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea, who has emphasized his country’s commitment to the “rules-based international order,” warned in his address at the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday that freedom and peace in the global community were yet again in “jeopardy.”
Attempts to “alter the status quo by force, nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction and systemic violations of human rights” must be overcome, he said, through “fearless commitment.”
“When freedom of any citizen or nation in the global community is in peril,” he said, “it is the community of nations that must stand together in solidarity to defend that freedom.”
Mr. Yoon did not name any countries in his address. But in a recent interview with The New York Times, he said it had become necessary for Seoul to expand its security cooperation with Washington and Tokyo as North Korea intensified its nuclear threat.
He was careful to point out that his country’s security partnerships were not aimed at China, his country’s largest trading partner. In recent months, however, he appears to have challenged Beijing on a number of fronts.
South Korea joined the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, often seen as an American-led effort to counter China in the race to secure global supply chains. He also agreed to attend preliminary talks for a technology alliance known as “Chip 4” with the United States, Japan and Taiwan.
Mr. Yoon told The Times that he didn’t feel bound by the previous administration’s “three-no” policy, which stated that there would be no additional deployments of an advanced American missile defense system known as Thaad in South Korea, no participation in the U.S. missile defense network and no trilateral military alliance with Washington and Tokyo.
While China has called Thaad a threat to its security, Mr. Yoon said the Thaad deployment was vital to South Korea’s defense against the North. “It is a matter of sovereignty and security, which is not subject to any compromise,” he told The Times.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken helped lead a summit on global food security on Tuesday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
With nearly a fifth of humanity at risk of poverty and hunger, according to the United Nations and U.S. officials, food availability and cost is a pressing problem that has only been more pronounced since the start of the year.
Another official presiding over the meeting, Charles Michel, president of the European Council, opened the summit by saying that the food crisis is being “exacerbated” by Russia’s war against Ukraine.
“It impacts every country, and we need to adapt our response to local needs,” he said.
More than 200 million people were in “acute need of food,” Mr. Michel said.
“This is not acceptable,” he said. “This is not sustainable. Famine is looming in many parts of the world.”
American officials said the purpose of the summit was to build on a commitment to global food security that emerged during both a meeting of the leaders of the Group of 7 nations in June and a ministerial event that Mr. Blinken organized in May, when the United States had the presidency of the U.N. Security Council. Since May, 103 members of the United Nations have signed onto the outlines of an American-led plan to improve global food security.
The issue has become a source of division and tension among U.N. member states. Climate change is one factor, and the war in Ukraine has compounded hunger in Africa, with South Sudan facing the threat of famine by October if the U.N. doesn’t secure billions of dollars in humanitarian aid.
Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, told reporters on Tuesday at the White House that President Biden would make “significant new announcements” about American investments for global food security in his speech to the Assembly on Wednesday.
Italy will hold a conference on the humanitarian situation, with a focus on food security in the Horn of Africa, on Wednesday. In parts of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, communities are at risk of starvation, the U.N. has said. Consecutive dry seasons caused by climate change have battered the Horn of Africa, destroying crops.
António Guterres, secretary general of the U.N., will also host a meeting for world leaders and government officials on the rippling effects of the war in Ukraine, focusing on rising food and energy prices and the global economic downturn.
“Global hunger began to rise before the pandemic and has never recovered,” Mr. Guterres said last week. “The cost-of-living crisis is hitting the poorest people and communities hardest, with dramatic effects.”
Jim Tankersley contributed reporting.
President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil was the first head of state to speak at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, and he spent much of his time summarizing his accomplishments ahead of Brazil’s election in 12 days.
He highlighted Brazil’s food production, the cheap price of gas, a falling unemployment rate and his new social-welfare program. The speech resembled a relatively placid pitch to voters, which likely relieved the world leaders and diplomats in attendance.
That is because the international community has been closely monitoring Mr. Bolsonaro’s remarks for signs about whether he will accept the election’s results. Following the playbook of former President Donald J. Trump, Mr. Bolsonaro has been questioning the reliability of Brazil’s election systems for months, despite little evidence that they are vulnerable.
In July, Mr. Bolsonaro called dozens of foreign diplomats to Brazil’s presidential palace to cast doubt on his country’s voting systems, alarming many of the attendees.
But on Tuesday, he steered clear of any mention of the voting machines. The most notable sign of his often combative political personality was his claim that he had rooted out the corruption caused by previous leftist administrations, including the one run by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the former president who now leads Mr. Bolsonaro in the polls for next month’s vote.
Mr. Bolsonaro also said that some of Brazil’s top priorities on human rights were “the defense of the family, the right to life from conception, self-defense and the repudiation of gender ideology,” or the movement to re-examine the concept of gender.
It was a less contentious speech than his address to the U.N. last year, in which he argued that doctors should be able to prescribe untested medications to fight the coronavirus, while later admitting he was not vaccinated. On Tuesday, he highlighted that 80 percent of Brazilians were vaccinated against the coronavirus.
On the war in Ukraine, Mr. Bolsonaro continued Brazil’s longstanding policy of remaining neutral, arguing both sides should continue to negotiate an end to the conflict. He also called on the international community to address the humanitarian impact of the fighting, particularly on energy and food. Brazil has continued to import fertilizer and fuel from Russia, and Mr. Bolsonaro’s government leads an initiative in the World Trade Organization to create exceptions to the financial sanctions on Russia to limit the impact on the global food supply.
On the environment, he defended his government’s record despite ample evidence that deforestation in the Amazon has soared during his administration. He said Brazil had protected more land than most nations, but that people who live in the Amazon must also make a living.
Mr. Bolsonaro has consistently trailed Mr. da Silva in polls ahead of Brazil’s elections on Oct. 2. If no candidate receives more than half of the votes cast, there will be a runoff election between the top two finishers on Oct. 30.
— Jack Nicas and André Spigariol
The United States and its European and Asian allies are at a pivotal point this week on sanctions on Russia and the urgent issue of energy prices as they discuss how to increase punishments on Moscow at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Finance ministers from the Group of 7 nations have formally supported the concept of a price cap on purchases of Russian oil, aimed at reducing the revenue that Russia gets from oil and squeezing its economy further as President Vladimir V. Putin continues his war in Ukraine.
But officials from those nations have yet to finalize a mechanism for the price cap or decide on the price itself, which is difficult to do because of the complexities of energy markets.
American and European officials want to avoid sending energy prices soaring before the arrival of winter. European leaders are already grappling with high energy prices and their potential impact on domestic politics. Mr. Putin has cut off some natural gas exports to European countries, in what the Biden administration calls a “weaponization” of energy supplies.
U.S. officials and their partners are also expected to try to persuade countries outside the Group of 7 to abide by whatever price cap is set. That includes China, India and Turkey, as well as other countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
“The oil price cap — if that’s going to work at all — is dependent on these countries’ willingness to follow the rules established by the West,” said Maria Snegovaya, a postdoctoral fellow at Georgetown University who has written about sanctions on Russia.
Some U.S. officials say it might not be necessary to get big purchasers like China and India to formally sign onto the price cap mechanism and be part of the coalition. They say those nations will use the cap to negotiate lower prices for Russian oil, which would still cut into Russia’s revenue.
U.S. officials have also been debating a more hard-line option: strengthening a price cap by threatening so-called secondary sanctions against companies from other countries that do not abide by such a cap. But officials say the Biden administration is not likely to take that approach.
American officials will use meetings this week at the United Nations and on the sidelines of the General Assembly to gauge the reactions from various countries to a price cap. American officials are also talking with counterparts from countries that have avoided direct condemnation of Russia to try to persuade them to make clear statements on the war or to join the sanctions coalition.
President Biden is expected to try to rally greater support for Ukraine when he speaks to the General Assembly on Wednesday. President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine is scheduled to address the assembly by video on the same day.
“The U.N. provides the platform for U.S. policymakers to incentivize these countries to join in the sanctions and prevent Russia’s active attempts to launch new diplomatic platforms outside of established venues like the U.N.,” Ms. Snegovaya said.
Given all the pressures on the nations in the sanctions coalition, including outcries from their residents over rising energy prices, U.S. officials will also need to expend enormous energy on diplomacy to keep the coalition unified, analysts say.
“Keeping the sanctions in place takes an enormous amount of leadership,” said John Gans, a former Pentagon official and author of “White House Warriors,” a history of the National Security Council. “If you don’t give priority to it, then it’ll fall to the wayside.”
Returning to an in-person Assembly after two years of Covid-19 pandemic disruptions, organizers were already contending with maskless delegates, who were going against the event’s entry requirements as the gathering got up to full speed on Tuesday. Security officials tried to intercept attendees on the escalator entering the assembly hall without masks, and inside the assembly hall, few people were wearing masks.
Tens of thousand of people from all over the world — from heads of state to government delegations, civil society, activists and media members — are descending on the U.N. headquarters in Midtown Manhattan.
“We are very happy to have the General Assembly high-level week back in person after two years,” said the U.N. spokesman Stéphane Dujarric. “In-person diplomacy is central to what the meeting are all about.”
The luncheon hosted by U.N. Secretary General António Guterres every year for world leaders, a chance to mingle and interact casually, has been canceled this year as a precaution, Mr. Dujarric said. A group lunch would require attendees to remove their masks, breaking the protocol for everyone to wear one when meeting Mr. Guterres and in public areas of the building.
In 2020, the annual gathering was held virtually with leaders delivering prerecorded speeches. It marked the first time in the U.N.’s 75-year history that in-person attendance was canceled.
Last year, the format was a mixture of in-person attendance and prerecorded speeches depending on the preference of each country.
So, how do organizers mitigate the risk of the diplomatic whirlwind not turning into a super spreader event? The U.N. is taking some precautions and enforcing some rules.
The number of people allowed inside the U.N. headquarters building is restricted and everyone is required to wear a mask in all public areas. Journalists are required to be vaccinated and carry proof of vaccination.
The U.N. is asking that anyone who has been exposed to the virus in the past five days, is feeling sick or has tested positive to stay home.
The number of people that each member state can bring inside the building is capped at 10. Countries can bring up to six members inside the General Assembly hall where leaders deliver speeches from Tuesday to Sunday, and four others can accompany them inside the building.
Before the pandemic, the U.N. headquarters hosted dozens of side events each day, drawing celebrities and experts in fields from science to women’s rights to freedom of the press.
This year, those events have been pared down to less than 20 and focused on the most pressing issues such as climate, food insecurity, pandemic response and education.
Mr. Guterres will only attend events at the headquarters but keep a full schedule of bilateral meetings with world leaders.
After three years of relative respite, the United Nations General Assembly is returning to New York at its usual scale this year. That means New Yorkers should anticipate street closures, detours and unannounced traffic freezes — and the accompanying frustration — as hundreds of world leaders and their staff arrive in the city.
Around 140 heads of state will be in the city, Patrick Freaney, who is in charge of the U.S. Secret Service New York field office, said during a news conference on Friday. Just 80 heads of state attended last year, largely because of the pandemic.
Gridlock will become the rule as world leaders gather and give speeches at the United Nations headquarters in Midtown Manhattan. There will be hundreds of motorcades and numerous security checkpoints.
“We strongly encourage New Yorkers and visitors to plan ahead, use alternate routes and use mass transit if they plan to visit the areas,” said Kim Royster, the chief of transportation for the New York City Police Department, during Friday’s news conference.
Ms. Royster said that Midtown Manhattan — 42nd Street to 57th Street and First Avenue to Fifth Avenue — will be affected. Police officers and traffic agents will be deployed at intersections to help the flow of traffic for cars, pedestrians and bicycles.
“If you must drive or make deliveries in the area, we advise you to avoid the area during the hours of 6 a.m. through 7 p.m.,” Ms. Royster said. A more detailed list of streets that will be affected can be found on the police department’s website.
City officials are encouraging people to take public transportation because it will be the “quickest and safest way around the anticipated gridlock,” said Kenneth Corey, the chief of Department for the N.Y.P.D., during the news conference on Friday.
He added that there are no “specific or credible threats” to the meeting or New York City, but “nevertheless, we ask everyone to remain vigilant at all times.”
“Customers can avoid heavy traffic by using the nearby Lexington Avenue 4-5-6 line, which will operate on a normal weekday schedule,” said a spokeswoman for the M.T.A. “Trains will run at least every two to three minutes and even more frequently during rush hour when vehicular traffic is expected to be at its most congested.”
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has encouraged people taking the bus in and out of Manhattan to allow for additional travel time to and from their destinations.