US President Barrack Obama has affirmed his country’s commitment to a coalition it is leading against the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL) group, calling on leaders of the world, especially the Middle East to stand against ideologies of “extremism and sectarianism”.
Addressing world leaders on Wednesday in the annual general assembly of the Untied Nations in New York, Obama said the US will be a “respectful and constructive partner” of the Arab world, and “not act as an occupying power” during the confronting of ISIL.
“Ultimately, the task of rejecting sectarianism and extremism is a generational task, a task for the people of the Middle East themselves,” Obama said. “No external power can bring about a transformation of hearts and minds.”
The speech, while touched upon a chain of crisis facing the international community, including the return of Cold War spectres amidst the armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the outbreak of deadly Ebola virus and climate change, Obama’s focus on the ISIL sets the stage for a Security Council meeting later in the day.
Due to be presided by him, members of the council are expected to adopt a resolution that would require all countries to prevent the recruitment and transport of foreign fighters preparing to join groups such as ISIL, which he described as the “network of death,” and al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front.
The fall of large areas in north Iraq and Syria to ISIL forced the US, along with Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar to launch air strikes against the group’s fighters in Syria and Iraq.
The first air strikes in Syria were delivered Monday night, following four years of reluctance on whether to militarily intervene in a country where a bloody civil war has killed over 190,000 people and displaced about 2.5 million citizens, as troops of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad brutally clampdown on rebels who sought his ouster.
The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the world seem like it may be falling apart, as the international community faces unprecedented list of crisis.
Painting a grim picture of what lays ahead, Ban said “unspeakable acts and the deaths of innocents.”
“But leadership is precisely about finding the seeds of hope and nurturing them into something bigger,” Ban said. “That is our duty. That is my call to you today.”
Al Jazeera’s diplomatic editor, James Bays said “I have spoken to so many world diplomats and senior officials over the past few days, they say they’ve never known a year like this in terms of the number of crisis.”
“You wonder if some of these very important topics will be properly dealt with. I don’t think they will get the attention they deserve,” Al Jazeera’s Bays said from New York, citing Obama’s focus on ISIL which has pushed at least 80,000 Syrian Kurds into Turkey over the past few days, to escape the violence.
“The big focus was ISIL, and what to do, without any detail on military actions, which is exactly what a lot of people in the hall will be thinking about: the legality of those airstrikes, as some countries these actions to be illegal according to the UN charter,” Bays explained, noting that eyes will be on the reactions of China and Russia, allies of Al-Assad who have been quiet with regards to these reactions.
Carne Ross, executive director of Independent Diplomat, a non-profit advisory group, told Al Jazeera that an element worth noting on the General Assembly’s agenda is climate change.
“Climate change is on the agenda of the General Assembly for the first time ever, which is surely a very welcomed thing. The summit yesterday, which preceded the General Assembly, was quite a positive step forward towards a global deal in Paris next year,” Ross said.
Thousands of protesters took to the streets in more than 100 cities on September 21, to sound the “climate alarm” ahead of meeting.
Among the topics also touched upon by Obama was the Ukrainian crises, where a ceasefire agreement between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces in the east remains shaky and repeatedly broken. Obama, who accuses Moscow of backing separatism in Ukraine, said: “We will impose a cost on Russia for aggression, and counter falsehoods with the truth.”
Obama also called upon Tehran to grasp the the “historic opportunity” of a nuclear deal reached last year to curtail the republic’s nuclear programme. “My message to Iran’s leaders and people is simple: do not let this opportunity pass. We can reach a solution that meets your energy needs while assuring the world that your programme is peaceful,” he said.