By Mario Villar
United Nations, Sep 30 (EFE).- Climate change, tensions with Iran and the crisis in Venezuela were some of the topics discussed during the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York this past week, although the proceedings were marked from the very start by the opening of impeachment proceedings against the host country’s president, Donald Trump.
The UN on Monday concluded a week of top-level meetings that brought a significant number of world leaders to New York over the past week to discuss and defend their particular views of the world scene.
Despite that, attention ended up focusing to a great degree on the impeachment proceedings launched by the US House of Representatives against Trump over a telephone call he had with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky.
On the day that the General Assembly got under way – Sept. 24 – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the head of the majority Democratic caucus in the lower chamber of Congress, announced her intention to begin impeachment proceedings against Trump after it became known that he had asked Zelensky for a “favor” – namely, to investigate his main political rival for the 2020 election, former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden.
Trump speaks at UN, preoccupied by impeachment
With Trump in New York to speak before the UN, the scandal over the Ukrainian phone call immediately overshadowed many of the big issues being discussed at the conclave and seemed to continually weigh on the US leader.
In a listless speech before the General Assembly, the New York real estate mogul reiterated his nationalist thesis without offering much that was new and without achieving the impact that his speeches to the international body had had in earlier years.
Trump’s standard attacks on “globalism,” Iran and Venezuela took up a good part of his speech, as well as at other associated events in which he took part, but the shadow of impeachment clearly had him on the back foot and seemed to keep him publicly on the defensive.
His most combative responses came, of course, on Twitter, where he denounced what he called the “witch hunt” against him and accused the Democrats of ruining the day on which he gave his UN address.
Trump ended his trip to New York with a huge press conference in which he denied pressuring Zelensky to investigate Biden and his son Hunter, who was working in Ukraine, and promising “transparency.”
No photo op with Iran, farther apart than ever
The US president had come to the annual UN assembly hoping to get a historic and headline-grabbing photo op with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani similar to the one he had achieved in the past with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
However, the drone attacks earlier in the month on Saudi oil refineries, for which Washington and its allies blame Iran, had completely squelched any possibility of that, thus seemingly making Trump’s desire to manufacture something positive – or at least some smiles and handshakes – with the Iranians a forlorn hope.
In the end, Rouhani and Trump in New York were apparently farther apart than ever, with the US president calling on the world to increase pressure on Tehran and Rouhani rejecting any talks with Washington as long as the US maintains its onerous sanctions on the Iranian regime.
Angry words on climate change
The problem of climate change was, with a few notable exceptions, the issue that most unified world leaders at the UN gathering, and they promised to take new measures to combat it, although very little in the way of concrete action was proposed.
The Climate Summit with which the UN opened the past week was more a type of alarm to accelerate the decision-making vis-a-vis what many view as an existential threat to the planet and, of course, to humankind.
Personifying the anger and frustration of much of the world – including uncounted millions of young people – at the general or relative lack of action by governments around the world on climate change was 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, who dressed down the assembled heads of state and government in a speech to the world body that, probably, will be the most-remembered moment from this year’s General Assembly.