The almost biblical scenes of mass humanity surging through Europe from the Balkans to the Baltic have created jarring images as we see a mass movement of displaced Syrians and Iraqis flooding into what they see as a Promised Land, the European Union. Thus as civil conflicts rage between secular regimes and Islamic radicals, destroying ancient lands with contemporary barbarism, the human "collateral damage" is measured in both the dead and the displaced.
Among the 193 presidential and ministerial speeches being made during the U.N. General Assembly debate, most will present politically pedantic and often droning restatements of the obvious; that war, terrorism, poverty and the refugee crisis lapping at Europe's shores and hinterland are among the absolute ills affecting the international community. The new and revamped sustainable development goals are then placed on the altar of global diplomacy as the penultimate offering to save the world.
Both Pope Francis and mainland Chinese leader Xi Jingping are visiting the United States at the same time. Two men whose paths will nearly intersect, both not touch, in New York at the United Nations are each leaders of 1.2 billion people; the pope of the Roman Catholic Church, and comrade Xi Jinping, the People's Republic of China. Pope Francis arrived amid White House pomp and circumstance ceremonies rather improbably in a tiny black Fiat. Xi goes around in black limos as one would expect.
Dark war clouds swirl from the Middle East, humanitarian crises worsen in Sub-Saharan Africa, and as refugees pour forth into the developed world, the United Nations General Assembly is set to open in New York. The 70th General Assembly will see an unprecedented gathering of presidents, prime ministers and kings, as well as the Roman Catholic pope, to a commemorative session on which world peace hinges.
The scenes of Syrians fleeing their homeland and pouring on to the roads and rail links of Greece and the Balkans create an almost biblical image. Exodus comes to mind. Not since WWII have such a large surge of refugees fleeing civil war and conflict, been moving through the gates of Europe and most especially towards Germany.
Syria continues to descend into the inferno while the international community stands transfixed. A political solution seems elusive as ever, the civil war grinds on having killed over 250,000 people, and over 12 million people have fled their homeland. Alarmed by these developments, the U.N. Security Council has affirmed its support for finding a durable political settlement to a crisis which after four years of fighting not only threatens Syria, but dangerously has morphed into a regional threat.
As the high-speed TGV train from Paris slowed down coming into St. Nazaire passing the sprawling shipyard alongside, a little boy in the seat in front of us became animated and exclaimed, "Look, Mama, there are the big warships!" The child was pointing to the two massive gray-hulled Mistral helicopter carriers which had been built in France for the Russian Navy, but because of the ongoing Ukraine crisis, were still marooned in political limbo and at dockside.
In a callous but not unexpected move to block an international inquiry on the fate of Malaysian Flight MH17 which was shot down over Ukraine just a year ago, Russia has vetoed a resolution which would have set up a tribunal to investigate the disaster which killed 298 civilians. The Malaysian civilian airliner, a Boeing 777, was shot down by a Russian supplied BUK missile allegedly fired by Russian-backed separatists fighting the Ukraine government. Moscow blames the Ukrainians for the disaster.
"Since last summer's onslaught by terrorists of the so-called ISIS, Iraq has been living through one of the most difficult phases of its modern history," came the sobering assessment of Jan Kubis, the U.N.'s special representative reviewing the current situation in Iraq, referring to IS using an alternative abbreviation. Yet in a Security Council briefing on the embattled Middle Eastern country, Dr. Kubis added, "While problems may seem daunting and persistent, there is hope, opportunities, and notably vision for the way out of this crisis."
A rhetorical tsunami followed the signing of the landmark nuclear limitation deal between Iran and six world powers in Vienna. On the one hand U.S. President Barack Obama and his tireless Secretary of State John Kerry presented a technically well-crafted plan which would supposedly keep the Iranian nuclear genie in the bottle but not dismantle the actual atomic program.