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General Assembly general debate to open at UN headquarters

September 24, 2013, 15:34 UTC+3

130 heads of state and government, as well as more than 60 foreign ministers of the UN member countries, expected to attend the forum

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UNITED NATIONS, September 24 (Itar-Tass) - The political debate, which is the main stage of the 68th session of the UN General Assembly, is opening at the UN headquarters in New York on Tuesday.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said last week that at least 130 heads of state and government, as well as more than 60 foreign ministers of the UN member countries, were expected to attend the forum, which will last until October 1. According to the Secretary-General, the forum’s “attendance is among the biggest in the United Nations’ history.”

The President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff will take the floor after Ban Ki-moon at the General Assembly, which during repairs in the main hall is held in a temporary room. U.S. President Barack Obama will be the second to address the General Assembly, according to tradition. In the evening the same day, Hassan Rouhani, who was elected President of Iran this June, will deliver a speech at the GA. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s speech is scheduled for September 27.

The focus of the general debate will certainly be on the situation in Syria, where more than 100 thousand have been killed over the past two and a half years as a result of a violent conflict between the government and opposition groups. No official events are planned in this connection, however, a meeting may be possibly held at the UN Security Council, which should adopt a resolution in support of the Russian-American agreements on the liquidation of Syrian chemical weapons.

A series of high-level meetings will be held within the General Assembly framework in the coming days. In particular, a meeting on nuclear disarmament will be held on September 26. The Quartet of international mediators on the Middle East settlement (Russia, the European Union, the United States and the UN) will gather on the sidelines of the GA to discuss further steps to support direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, resumed in late July. The meeting date has not yet been announced.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton told journalists on Monday that a meeting of high-level representatives of the six key nations on Iran’s nuclear issue settlement (permanent members of the UN Security Council - Britain, China, Russia, the USA, France and Germany) with Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif will also be held in New York. The Iranian minister stated later in an interview with the IRNA news agency that the meeting was scheduled for Thursday.

On the same day, the UN Security Council will hold a high-level debate on the problem of the spread of small arms and light weapons. The meeting is expected to adopt a resolution that warns of the dangers of uncontrolled trade in such weapons to international peace and security.

The leaders and foreign ministers of the UN member states during the week will use the major international forum to discuss the most pressing issues of the present time at bilateral and multilateral meetings. Observers expect a possible meeting between the U.S. and Iranian presidents, which, if it takes place, would become the first such meeting since 1979, when Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was overthrown as a result of the Islamic revolution, and Ayatollah Khomeini came to power. Washington has so far not confirmed the reports about the preparations for the historic meeting. The White House said Friday that Barack Obama would hold talks only with President of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan and President of Lebanon Michel Suleiman, as well as with the President of the State of Palestine, leader of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.

While the American-Iranian meeting is so far only rumoured, at this point it can be said with certainty that trilateral talks of Ban Ki-moon with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will be held at the UN headquarters. This tripartite meeting is likely to take place on Friday evening, UN Secretary-General’s spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters. Last week, the U.S. State Department confirmed that the meeting would take place, but did not specify its time. Ban Ki-moon had previously announced that he intended to meet with the Russian foreign minister and U.S. secretary of state on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly to discuss the preparations for the second international conference on Syria (Geneva 2).

The General Assembly is the main deliberative organ of the UN. Decisions on important questions, such as those on peace and security, admission of new members and budgetary matters, require a two-thirds majority. Decisions on other questions are by simple majority. Each country has one vote. Some Member States in arrear of payment may be granted the right to vote. The GA has established a number of Councils, Working Groups, Boards, etc. for the performance of its functions. The Assembly has adopted its own rules of procedure and elects its President for each session.

With the expansion of the organisation the agenda of the Assembly has also been considerably changed: at the end of the 1940s it had been devoted mainly to problems of decolonisation. Now, the scope of issues discussed by the UN GA includes the problems of social and economic development, conflict prevention, post-conflict reconstruction, the fight against terrorism, corruption, drug trafficking and HIV/AIDS, protection of women and children, promotion of fundamental principles of democracy.

In 1946, a year after the foundation of the United Nations, the GA comprised 51 members, and at present - 193. The latest country to join the UN is Southern Sudan (in 2011).

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