President Obama is addressing the United Nations General Assembly this morning, his final speech before the international governing body.
As he nears the end of his two terms in office, the president is expected to address some of his administration’s biggest foreign policy initiatives, including the completion of the Paris climate accord, restoring diplomatic ties with Cuba and fighting the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.
He is also expected to talk about the ongoing, multisided war in Syria. His speech comes the day after a cease-fire brokered by the United States and Russia collapsed, in part because of distrust sowed by an accidental attack by a U.S-led coalition aircraft that killed Syrian soldiers over the weekend. Civilians are trapped in besieged areas. On Monday, an aid convoy in Syria was attacked from the air, and the president is expected to address the U.S. approach to handling refugees fleeing the fighting.
Despite the ongoing violence, Obama is expected to defend elements of his administration’s approach to the war in Syria, including discouraging the use of chemical weapons, and authorizing an air campaign against ISIS strongholds.
He will likely echo points made by the United States’ ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power, who told NPR on Monday that the administration is pursuing the duel motives of “targeting terrorists and making sure that the starving and surrendering techniques end.”
Earlier in the day, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon also addressed the war in Syria in a speech to the assembly, saying “There is no military solution.” Ban’s term as U.N. leader ends this year, and he said although the body as “achieved much,” he has deep concerns.
“Gulfs of mistrust divide citizens from their leaders. Extremists push people into camps of ‘us’ and ‘them’,” Ban said. “The Earth assails us with rising seas, record heat and extreme storms. And danger defines the days of many.”
Check back at 10 a.m. ET for live streaming and blog coverage of the address.
Update at 11:08 a.m. ET “No Ultimate Military Victory To Be Won” In Syria
“We must reject any forms of fundamentalism or racism,” President Obama says, as he turns to the importance of embracing tolerance. He warned leaders not to seek legitimacy “not because of policies or programs but by resorting to demonizing other religious sects,” referencing the Middle East specifically.
“If our religion leads us to persecute those of another faith,” he says, or jail gay people or undercuts the rights of women and girls, we lose our power as an international community.
The President references to the fight against ISIS, calling the group a “mindless medieval menace.”
“There is a military component,” to fighting the group, he says, but “in a place like Syria no ultimate military victory to be won,” and diplomacy is a key tool for peace.
Update at 10:55 a.m. ET “I Believe In A Liberal Political Order
President Obama turns to his broad beliefs on governance. He expresses his belief that liberal democracy is worth fighting for, despite the fact that “building accountable institutions is hard work.” He says top-down leadership and and governance by strongmen will ultimately lead to instability and war.
“Because of our ideals, ordinary people were able to organize and march and protest,” he says of the United States. Freedom “turned our diversity into a strength. “I do not think this story is unique to America,” he says. “The countries that have succeeded are the ones in which people feel they have a stake,” he says, going on to reference the uprising in Ukraine as evidence for the power of citizen engagement.
“The cure for what ails our democracies is greater engagement, not less,” he says.
Update at 10:45 a.m. ET “A Course-Correction”
The president says that in order to move forward, “we do have to acknowledge that the existing path to global integration requires a course-correction.” Free markets and global trade have created gaps between rich and poor. “Too often those trumpeting globalization have ignored inequality,” he says.
However, he also warned against those governments who would deny globalization, or try to isolate themselves, calling it “self-defeating.”
“Today a nation ringed by walls would only imprison itself,” he says.
Update at 10:38 a.m. ET “The Paradox That Defines Our World Today”
As he begins, President Obama says the world is both more prosperous and less violent than it was at the end of the Cold War, and yet it is more uncertain and filled with strife. “We must go forward and not backward,” he says. “Those who deny others dignity are subject to public reproach.”
Update at 10:15 a.m. ET President Obama is late
The president is running late. To keep the agenda running, the president of Chad, Idriss Déby, was asked to speak before, instead of after, President Obama.