MR BOZKIR: As the president of the General Assembly, I am delighted to welcome you, albeit virtually, to the United Nations headquarters in New York. We have faced difficult circumstances this session. Because of COVID-19 we have encountered daunting operational challenges. But through it all, the 75th General Assembly’s activities continued in person until today. Out of the 68 official platforms of the United Nations, the General Assembly is the only platform that meets in person, and I’m proud of it. Of course, this is a testament that the member-states commit to the United Nations, and the General Assembly has shown that even under most trying circumstances, it can deliver on behalf of the people it serves.
Mr. Secretary, the United States is a crucial friend and partner of the United Nations, and I’m pleased that the new U.S. administration is re-engaging with international institutions and expressing a strong commitment to partnerships and alliances. The U.S. has the capacity to lead by example and exercise significant positive influence, and in that regard, as the most representative organ of the United Nations system, we look forward to the close cooperation within the United States and the – on a – and the United Nations on a wide range of issues.
Today, we will discuss, of course, a number of General Assembly-mandated political issues of mutual interest and concern. These include the – first the situation in Myanmar and following the coup d’etat, including the problems of the Muslim Rohingya people; also Syria, where for 10 years the legitimate demands of people have been suppressed by crimes against humanity; and, of course, the implementation of several General Assembly resolutions to support Palestinians and Israelis to resolve the conflict and achieve the vision of two states living side by side in peace and security.
Our focus here at the United Nations General Assembly is also on some important issues. One of the top priorities is developing a collective response to COVID-19. The immediate concern among the member-states is to ensure fair and equitable access to vaccines. I will share my views on this issue and the long-term socio-economic impacts of the pandemic.
Climate change, Mr. Secretary, is another item on the top of our agenda at the General Assembly, and I’m pleased that President Biden will convene the Leaders’ Summit on Climate next month. We’re looking forward to that.
Addressing the problems of the most vulnerable, namely refugees, immigrants, and stateless persons, is another urgent issue. The least developed countries, the LLDCs, the SIDs has been always a priority for the 75th session. And, of course, here again UN has a key role to play, but also the United States will be our partner in that respect.
The threat of famine involving 270 million people is another important issue. Increasing racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Asian, and anti-Muslims tendencies require our immediate attention.
Mr. Secretary, these challenges do not respect national borders, so we need multilateralism and the commitment of each and every member-state to tackle with them. These requires the three main organs of the United Nations, namely the General Assembly, the Security Council, and the secretary-general, to be more effective and responsive. And I’m pleased that we will discuss these issues in more detail momentarily.
Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary-General, and I wish you all the best in your very difficult endeavors. And I thank the new UN permanent representative of the United States who has started enormously well. She has become a beloved person among the UN community. I am very pleased to have her with us.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. Well, President Bozkir, thank you. It’s very, very good to be with you today. This is our first meeting. I wish it were in person. I – maybe soon we’ll have that possibility, but at least we’re able to meet virtually. And it’s so important because for us the United Nations is the anchor of the multilateral system, and that multilateral system is of vital importance to the United States.
As you, I think, very effectively and eloquently put it, virtually none of the challenges and problems that you cited, most of which actually have a direct impact on the lives and future of our citizens, can be effectively solved or met by any one country acting alone, including the United States. So we have a strong interest in finding new and better ways to cooperate around the world, and the UN and the UN system is one of the best vehicles for doing that.
The Security Council, with its 15 member-countries, gets a lot of attention. But we know that the General Assembly brings together 193 countries. No other venue in the world does that. And it often includes, as you know very well, civil society groups, which bring important voices and on-the-ground perspectives to the General Assembly’s deliberations.
Today, I’m very much looking forward to discussing with you how to elevate discussions within the General Assembly so the international community can make greater progress on the key issues of our time. You cited many of them, but certainly climate change, COVID, and human rights.
We’ll also discuss the work that’s already underway to prepare for the UNGA 76 High-Level Week in September – what some call the “Super Bowl of diplomacy.” I’ve been able to take part in that a few times myself in the past. Mr. President, I know you and your team are taking the lead in putting that together and taking a look at what those meetings will actually look like given the challenges that we’re facing, and the United States is very much looking forward to getting as much done that week as possible, whether virtually or in person.
As I just said in my meeting with the secretary-general a few minutes ago, President Biden has made clear that the United States is committed to working with allies and partners wherever we can. We believe, as he said and as I just said again, that multilateral cooperation is particularly important at this moment in world history. We want to do our part to make regional and international institutions even more effective as venues for promoting cooperation and also resolving disputes. The United Nations, as the leading multilateral institution in the world, has a major role to play in meeting the global challenges of our time.
So Mr. President, thank you for taking time to meet with us, for receiving us virtually in New York. I look forward to our conversation. Thank you all.