Terming the prevention of slaughter within countries, whose institutions offer no hope to innocent men, women and children, as the new challenge the world faces today, U.S. President Barack Obama called upon nations to demonstrate the courage and determination to act decisively "when the breakdown of societies is so great [and] the violence against civilians so substantial."
UN Photo/Rick Bajornas America stands ready to do its part to prevent mass atrocities and protect basic human rights, even if the country's core interests are not directly threatened, said U.S. President Barack Obama addressing the 68th Annual General Assembly Debate at the United Nations in New York on Tuesday
Addressing the 68th Annual General Assembly Debate at the United Nations in New York on Tuesday, President Obama said, America stands ready to do its part to prevent mass atrocities and protect basic human rights, even if America's core interests are not directly threatened. However, he warned, that his country cannot, and should not, bear that burden alone.
In his address, President Obama also touched upon specific international issues. About the Syria conflict, he said, the response of the international community has not matched the "scale of the challenge." Considering positive signals from Iran on the nuclear issues, President Obama said he was directing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to pursue a diplomatic course with the Iranian Government in close cooperation with the European Union, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China. Dealing with Israeli-Palestinian question, he said, Israel's security as a Jewish and democratic State depends on the realization of a Palestinian State.
The main crux of President Obama's address was the raft of "profound new challenges," that continue to test the United Nations.
The US President also seemed to use the opportunity to wade-off the international criticism his Administration (and the US) faced for proposing to take unilateral military action in Syria.
In his address, President Obama also seemed particularly sore at the inability of the United Nations Security Council to find common ground to meet new emerging challenges.
"The question is whether we possess the wisdom and the courage as [...] members of an international community, to squarely meet those challenges: whether the United Nations can meet the test of our time," President Obama asked.
Leaders that had built the UN understood that humanity could not survive the course [of war and conflict] it was on. For decades, the Organisation has made a difference: eradicating disease, educating children and brokering peace, he said.
But as new challenges continued to arise, there will be times when the international community is called upon to act, President Obama pointed out.
"This will require new thinking and some very tough choices." he added.
Drawing attention to the changing dynamics of challenges the global community faces, President Obama said, "While the United Nations was designed to prevent wars between States, increasingly we face the challenge of preventing slaughter within States,"
He emphasised that that such challenges will grow more pronounced as the international community is confronted with States that are fragile or failing.
"I've made it clear that even when America's core interests are not directly threatened, we stand ready to do our part to prevent mass atrocities and protect basic human rights. But we cannot and should not bear that burden alone," Mr. Obama said.
Addressing core issues of conflict, President Obama said, in Syria, "peaceful protests against an authoritarian regime were met with repression and slaughter," and in the face of such carnage, many retreated to their sectarian identifies - Alawites and Sunni, Christian and Kurd - and the situation spiralled into civil war, the international community recognized the stakes early on, "but our response has not matched the scale of the challenge."
Mr. Obama said that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's traditional allies have "propped him up," citing principles of sovereignty to shield his regime.
He said that the crisis in Syria and the destabilization of the region goes to the heart of broader challenges that the international community must now confront. Putting key questions before Member States, he asked: "How should we respond to conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa? How do we address the choice of standing callously by while children are subjected to nerve gas, but we're embroiling ourselves in someone else's civil war? What is the role of the use of force?"
He said, his threat of military action against Syria was not done lightly.
"I did so because I believe it is in the national security interests of the United States and in the interest of the world to meaningfully enforce a prohibition whose origins are older than the United Nations itself," President Obama said.
With the Syrian Government taking the first step to provide an account of its chemical weapon stockpiles, President Obama said, there must be a strong Security Council resolution to verify that Damascus is keeping its commitments.
"And there must be consequences if they fail to do so. If we cannot agree even on this, then it will show that the United Nations is incapable of enforcing the most basic of international laws," President Obama added.
He agreed that military action could not achieve a lasting peace, nor was it of the US or any nation to who will lead Syria.
"That is for the Syrian people to decide," he said
As negotiations continue, President Obama urged UN Member States to step up to meet humanitarian needs in Syria and surrounding countries.
On Iran's nuclear issue, President Obama acknowledged the deeply rooted mistrust and said he did not believe such difficult history could be overcome overnight.
He however believed that if Washington and Tehran could resolve the issue of Iran's nuclear programme, "that can serve as a major step down a long road toward a different relationship, one based on mutual interests and mutual respect."
Maintaining that Tehran must meet its responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and Security Council resolutions, President Obama noted the positive signals emanating from Iran on the question of nuclear weapons.
Iran's supreme leader has issued a fatwah against the development of nuclear weapons and President Hassan Rouhani has recently reiterated that Iran will never develop a nuclear weapon, President Obama said.
Taking a cue from the emerging positive scenario, the U.S. President said, he was directing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to pursue a diplomatic course with the Iranian Government in close cooperation with the European Union, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China.
Dealing with the contentious Israel-Palestine conflict, President Obama reiterated that the U.S. will never compromise its commitment to Israel's security, nor its support for its existence as a Jewish State. Likewise, he said, the U.S. remains committed to the belief that the Palestinian people have a right to live with security and dignity in their own sovereign State.
"The time is now ripe for the entire international community to get behind the pursuit of peace. Already, Israeli and Palestinian leaders have demonstrated a willingness to take significant political risks," he said, urging the global community to be willing to take risks as well.
"Friends of Israel, including the United States, must recognize that Israel's security as a Jewish and democratic State depends on the realization of a Palestinian State," he said,
At the same time, Arab States and those who support the Palestinians must recognize that stability will only be served through a two-State solution and a secure Israel, he added.
America stands ready to do its part to prevent mass atrocities and protect basic human rights, even if the country's core interests are not directly threatened, said U.S. President Barack Obama addressing the 68th Annual General Assembly Debate at the United Nations in New York on Tuesday