UNITED NATIONS (AP) — World leaders gathered Saturday for the fourth day of the annual ministerial meeting of the U.N. General Assembly to address the state of their countries and the world. Here are highlights from some of the newsworthy speakers:
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
The president of the transitional government in conflict-torn Central African Republic said the country has great hopes the new U.N. peacekeeping mission will help restore security and promote development. Catherine Samba-Panza said the success of the U.N. force will hinge on the involvement of the country's security and defense forces at its side. Months of fighting between a mostly Muslim rebel coalition and a Christian militia have left at least 5,000 people dead. Samba-Panza said that after a July 23 cease-fire agreement it is time to bring all parties together to consider "a new republic and pact to recast the Central African state."
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he's serious about holding peace talks with Pakistan but also criticized the neighboring country, insisting it must create an "appropriate atmosphere" for the dialogue. In his first U.N. address since taking power in May, Modi said that dialogue needs to take place "without the shadow of terrorism." Modi invited Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to his inauguration, but India in August withdrew from planned talks between their foreign secretaries as Pakistan wanted to consult first with separatists in the disputed region of Kashmir. In his U.N. address Friday, Nawaz criticized India's withdrawal from the talks, saying the world saw it as a "missed opportunity." India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over the divided Himalayan region of Kashmir since independence in 1947. India accuses Pakistan of assisting militants that fight against Indian security forces.
Libya pleaded with the international community to help it stand up to Islamist-allied militias that have taken control of government buildings, saying the U.N. must impose sanctions or risk a terrorist expansion throughout North Africa. Ageila Saleh Eissa, president of the House of Representatives, spoke after weeks of fighting among rival militias in Libya forced nearly a quarter-million people to flee their homes. "The international community has either to stand with the elected, legitimate authorities and (impose sanctions) or say very clearly that the Libyans have to face terrorism alone," Eissa said. Libya has been witnessing the worst violence since the 2011 overthrow of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The latest violence has left Libya with two governments and two parliaments.
North Korea said it is willing to cooperate with the U.N. and other international organizations on human rights, but is bristling at what it views as politicization of the issue by its arch enemy, the United States. In February, a U.N. commission of inquiry concluded that there was evidence of crimes against humanity by North Korea's authoritarian government. Washington this week called on Pyongyang to shut its "evil system" of prison camps. Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong did not directly address the findings of the commission, which Pyongyang has refused to cooperate with. Ri accused the U.S. of "abusing" the human rights issue for political purposes. He said North Korea is willing to cooperate on the issue with countries that aren't hostile to it.
The Russian foreign minister issued a blistering attack on the West and NATO, accusing them of being unable to change their Cold War "genetic code" and saying the United States must abandon its claims to "eternal uniqueness." Sergey Lavrov said the crisis in Ukraine was the result of a coup d'etat in that country supported by the United States and the European Union. He made no mention of Western allegations that Russia has sent troops and heavy weapons into eastern Ukraine in support of pro-Russian rebels who have taken over a number of cities. Lavrov also says the Russian annexation of Crimea earlier this year was, in fact, the choice of the largely Russian-speaking population there.
Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said the war against extremists in the Middle East needs years and must not stop before eliminating all terrorist organizations. Saud al-Faisal, whose country is one of five Arab countries taking part alongside the United States in airstrikes targeting the Islamic State group in Syria, called for decisive policies and decisions to fight terrorism. Al-Faisal did not speak, but his speech was distributed to the media. The minister also said any solution to Syria's three-year-old conflict must exclude Syrian President Bashar Assad, accusing him of pushing his people toward extremism with his brutal crackdown.
The president of South Sudan said his government is "unwaveringly committed" to ending the conflict with his former vice-president that has killed thousands. Salva Kiir urged the international community to pressure rebels led by political rival Riek Machar to sign what he called "a crucially important document" that forms the basis for resolving the crisis peacefully and inclusively. He said he has already signed the protocol agreement along with regional leaders. South Sudan has been wracked by violence since December. Government troops continue to fight the rebels despite a cease-fire agreement in January which was reaffirmed in May. Kiir said his government has "unreservedly honored" the peace agreements and accused the rebels of violating them "too many times."
Thailand defended the political takeover by its military and said it won't "go against the tide of democracy." Deputy Prime Minister Tanasak Patimapragorn said democracy is about more than just holding elections. He said political parties had been unwilling to compromise and the country risked bloodshed unless the military intervened. The May 22 coup overthrew an elected government after months of political protests. Last month, the junta's hand-picked legislature named the military chief as prime minister. The military has squelched open debate on the nation's fate. Tanasak said Thailand needs "time and space" to bring about reconciliation and undertake political reforms. Critics say the moves are designed to purge the influence of the ousted ruling party and benefit an elite minority.