U.S. President Barack Obama used his address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday morning to present his vision for America's foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East, focusing on Syria, Iran's nuclear program and peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
It is as yet unclear whether Obama would meet later in the day with Iranian President Hassan Rohani, a moderate cleric who has been making friendly gestures toward the U.S. in recent weeks. Even a brief encounter would be significant given that the leaders of the U.S. and Iran haven't had face-to-face contact in more than 30 years.
U.S. officials say no meeting was planned, though they hadn't ruled out the possibility that one might be added. The most likely opportunity appeared to be at a UN leaders' lunch Tuesday.
5:52 P.M.: Ending his speech with a reaffirmation of American commitment to human rights, Obama leaves the podium. 'We look to the future not with fear, but with hope."
5:43 P.M.: On American engagement in Egypt: "The U.S. will at times work with governments that do not meet the highest international expectations, but who work with us on our core interests."
On military support to Egypt: "We have not proceeded with the delivery of certain military systems, and our support will depend upon Egypt’s progress in pursuing a democratic path."
5:37 P.M: Obama refers to his recent trip to Israel: "I believe there is a growing recognition within Israel that the occupation of the West Bank is tearing at the democratic fabric of the Jewish state. But [Israelis] have the right to live in a world where the nations assembled in this body fully recognize their country, and unequivocally reject those who fire rockets at their homes or incite others to hate them."
5:33 P.M.: "Since I took office, I have made it clear – in letters to the Supreme Leader in Iran and more recently to President Rohani – that America prefers to resolve our concerns over Iran’s nuclear program peacefully, but that we are determined to prevent them from developing a nuclear weapon. We are not seeking regime change, and we respect the right of the Iranian people to access peaceful nuclear energy. Instead, we insist that the Iranian government meet its responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and UN Security Council resolutions.
"We should be able to achieve a resolution that respects the rights of the Iranian people, while giving the world confidence that the Iranian program is peaceful. To succeed, conciliatory words will have to be matched by actions that are transparent and verifiable," Obama says.
"…We are encouraged that President Rohani received from the Iranian people a mandate to pursue a more moderate course. Given President Rohani’s stated commitment to reach an agreement, I am directing John Kerry to pursue this effort with the Iranian government, in close coordination with the European Union, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China," he adds.
5:30 P.M.: Obama says that U.S. diplomatic efforts will focus on two main issues in the near term: "Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, and the Arab-Israeli conflict."
"While these issues are not the cause of all the region’s problems, they have been a major source of instability for far too long, and resolving them can help serve as a foundation for a broader peace," he says.
5:28 P.M.: The U.S. is chastised for meddling in the region, and accused of having a hand in all manner of conspiracy; at the same time, the U.S. is blamed for failing to do enough to solve the region’s problems, and for showing indifference toward suffering Muslim populations.
"A leader who slaughtered his citizens and gassed children to death cannot regain the legitimacy to lead a badly fractured country. The notion that Syria can return to a pre-war status quo is a fantasy. It’s time for Russia and Iran to realize that insisting on Assad’s rule will lead directly to the outcome they fear: an increasingly violent space for extremists to operate."
5:21 P.M: Obama: "With respect to Syria, we believe that as a start point, the world community must enforce the ban of chemical weapons. I believe it is in the interest of the U.S., and of the world." The memory of Jews slaughtered in gas chambers, says Obama, reminds us of the importance of chemicals weapons containment.
"It is an insult to suggest anyone besides the Assad government was behind the chemical attacks."
5:15 P.M: Obama mentions communications interception in passing at start of his remarks, saying that while it is being reviewed, ''the world is more stable than it was 5 years ago."
5:10 P.M: Obama takes the stage.
5:08 P.M.: Just ahead of Obama's turn to address assembly, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff commences her speech with a forceful criticism of international communications interception. "Meddling, in such a matter in the lives of citizens of other countries is a breach of international law - it is an affront. […] The argument that communications interception is needed, and intended to fight terrorism is untenable. [Brazil knows how to take care of terror within its borders.] Without respect for nation's sovereignty there is no base for the relations between nations."
Saying ''There is no military way out of the Syrian crisis," Rousseff offers positive words toward the U.S. in its handling of the chemical weapons, crisis and the agreement reached with Russia toward containment.
Like Ban, she also mentions the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. "Given the sweeping changes the Midle East is going through, the time has come to materialize the ample international consensus regarding the legitimate demand of Palestinians for an independent state, and move toward a two state solution."
4:25 P.M.: Ban wraps up speech with a plea for working toward sustainable development: "[Efforts at] nuclear disarmament are languishing, and [all over the world], spending on weapons remains absurdly high. Let us get our priorities right, and spend our money on education and development."
4:17 P.M.: The UN secretary-general on the Israel-Palestinian peace process: "If we are serious about achieving a two-state solution, we must realize that the window of opportunity is closing fast."
4:10 P.M.: Calling for a binding resolution to eliminate chemical weapons in Syria, Ban asks the UN Security Council to adopt the resolution as soon as possible and adopt measures that could send humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people.
"Who can say the Syrian people are wrong in feeling forgotten by the international community? The world must work to bring justice upon those who carried out the worst chemical weapons attack in recent history, and ensure the safeguarding of Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles."
"But we must remember," he says, that ''the vast majority of killing has been committed using conventional weapons.''
4:00 P.M.: Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, takes the stage, speaks about the challenges of the 21st century. "Let the 21st century be the century of women."
"The effects of climate change are a threat to all forms of development. The repercussion are affecting everybody. The poorest and the most vulnerable are the first to suffer. The message from the planet, and fom science, is a clear one."