I went into this week with a lot of questions as to what the 68th United Nations General Assembly would hold. I expected Syria and Iran to be hefty topics, and I was hopeful these would bring good news. There was speculation of some glimpse at a diplomatic movement between Iran and the United States. There were some unexpected results and some questions that have yet to be answered.
Gary Quinlan, who heads the U.N. Security Council and an Australian ambassador, called for humanitarian efforts to be made immediately. Despite the two-year deadlock as to what to do about Syria, an agreement on the U.S.-Russia resolution was made Friday. This resolution will allow the U.N. to obtain and destroy all of the Syrian government’s chemical weapons.
This resolution shows a glimpse toward a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Syria. After two years, with Russia and China each vetoing resolutions three separate times, it is good to finally see some productivity and cooperation. Russia has been a key player by allowing a loophole in the resolution that will have consequences in the form of trade regulations and sanctions if the Syrian government does not cooperate.
President Barack Obama announced his interests in working with Iran on nuclear talks. After 34 years of silence between the leaders of their two countries, Obama and newly-elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani held a phone conversation Friday, although there was no face-to-face meeting. It is rumored the United States might be handing over some Persian artifacts originally discovered in modern-day Iran as a sign of good faith.
Obama has also stated there must be a global effort to make peace in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. This may prove difficult if the West wants to even think about peace talks with Iran. Iran has not been directly involved in the conflict, but it has been a longtime antagonist of Israel and supports the Arab League in the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict.
There have been numerous talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This has also come with both Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas assigning negotiators. Both countries show not only an interest in improving their own relations, but in dealing with Syria and improving relations with Egypt.
With all of this good news, however, there is one glaring error in the United Nations General Assembly — the Vatican is present. Since 1964, the Vatican has been recognized by the U.N. as the Holy See. This is fundamentally wrong. There should not be such a deeply religious influence to this international diplomatic meeting, and if there is, all religions must be recognized equally.
The Holy See is dangerous to the U.N.’s humanitarian efforts. Despite Pope Francis’ not-so-conventional opinions on many topics, the idea as a whole has caused problems in the past. It is not OK to have a religion-based state that will work to block human rights rather than protect them.
The biggest problem I see is its direct opposition to LGBT rights internationally. This imposition of Christian views, even as an observing party, is extremely biased at the international level. The inclusion of the Vatican also affects the vital need of stem-cell research and directly harms reproductive rights globally.
There have already been groundbreaking headways in the 68th session of the U.N.’s General Assembly. From a global standpoint, we have a lot to do. But the right steps, in many cases, are being taken by many countries. The phenomenal cooperation between the U.S. and Russia has already led to a peaceful resolution on Syria and might show to be a new powerhouse alliance. It is important for the U.N. as a whole to keep a level head in all of the issues it is currently dealing with and any future challenges. Global peace might be unattainable, but global tolerance might not be a fairy tale.
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