| 19 April 2024, Friday |

Biden talks up multilateralism at UN, but allies left guessing

In his first speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, US President Joe Biden pushed for more co-operation between nations in fighting climate change and the coronavirus pandemic

Mr Biden called for a “decisive decade for our world” of nations coming together against Covid-19, climate change, wars and the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea in a 33-minute speech supporting UN multilateralism.

The world was “mourning more than 4.5 million” lives claimed by the pandemic, which underscores how “our collective future will hinge on our ability to recognize our common humanity, and to act together,” he said.

“The clear and urgent choice that we face here, at the dawning of what must be a decisive decade for our world, a decade that will quite literally determine our futures,” said Mr Biden.

Mr Biden’s speech stood in sharp contrast to the “America First” nationalism of his predecessor Donald Trump, and the president included little to offend US rivals China and Russia — even saying he wanted to avoid a new “Cold War”.

Still, Mr Biden has faced criticism for sidelining allies, including during last month’s hasty military exit from Afghanistan and by freezing France out of a nuclear-powered submarine deal with Britain and Australia.

Mr Biden made few references to the Middle East. He reasserted his belief in a two-state solution as the best way to solve tension between Israelis and Palestinians, and said Iran should not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.

“I continue to believe that a two-state solution is the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a democratic state,” Mr Biden said.

“We’re a long way from that goal at this moment.”

Earlier, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres kicked off the world body’s annual assembly on a bleak note, saying that mankind was on the “edge of an abyss — and moving in the wrong direction”.