Live Updates: U.N. General Assembly

President Joe Biden address the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022 at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The Latest on the U.N. General Assembly:

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell says he is calling an emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers and will start proposing new sanctions to respond to Russia’s latest “unacceptable” threat to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine and upcoming referendums for Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine to become part of Russia.

He told a news conference on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly that he expected the meeting Wednesday night to also discuss how to continue providing military support to Ukraine and putting pressure on Russia.

Borrell said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threat to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine is a danger to the world and an attempt to intimidate Ukraine and its supporters. But, he said, “he has failed, he will fail again.”

He stressed that the EU is not going to engage directly in the seven-month-old war, which followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, and will continue “more of the same” — military support and economic and individual sanctions.

Parts of Kenya are experiencing the worst drought in 40 years, leaving more than 3 million people severely food-insecure, the country’s new president said Wednesday.

William Ruto said the affected portions have seen scarce rainfall over three consecutive seasons. Supply chain disruptions have only made the food situation worse, he said.

“This unprecedented confluence of intensely adverse events has exacerbated water scarcity and starvation, worsened by rising food prices, thus complicating Kenya’s roadmap towards delivering good quality of life to our citizens,” he told the U.N. General Assembly.

In his first speech to the General Assembly as Kenya’s president, Ruto said the world “cannot afford to waste another moment debating the merits of doing something vis-a-vis doing nothing.”

“It will soon be too late to reverse the course of events,” he said, “and then, even the best possible interventions will not suffice.” ___

First lady Jill Biden and Queen Letizia of Spain have highlighted the importance of global cooperation in efforts to find a cure for cancer.

Both women are advocates for cancer patients. They spoke at the sidelines of the United Nations in New York on Wednesday after touring Columbia University’s Irving Medical Center in the northern Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights while their husbands attended the U.N. General Assembly session. The visit was part of the Biden administration’s “Cancer Moonshot,” an ambitious initiative to halve cancer death rates in the next 25 years.

The president and his wife lost their oldest son, Beau, to brain cancer in 2015.

The tour was also a follow-up to when Jill Biden and Letizia met in Madrid in June before a NATO summit. The queen invited the first lady to see some of Spain’s cancer research efforts.

The first lady said Wednesday that she wanted to bring the queen to the Columbia University center so she could learn about cancer research being done in the United States. The Columbia center collaborates with researchers in Spain.

Zambia’s president is warning that even a few months of war “can erase decades of progress” in the global fight against poverty.

Hakainde Hichilema’s comments to the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday come as countries across Africa are experiencing dramatic spikes in food prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“War in any part of the world ... has a damaging effect on economic activity, which derails our collective fight against poverty and hunger,” he said. “A few months of war can erase decades of progress.”

Hichilema also provided a stark example of climate change’s devastating effects in his southern African country: Half of Zambia experienced total crop failures because of severe drought, while the other half suffered flooding.

“Such extreme weather events are a timely reminder of the grave consequences of climate change,” he told the General Assembly, adding that developing countries need help mitigating the side effects.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to declare a partial military mobilization in the face of setbacks in its war in Ukraine, saying it will further isolate Moscow.

Speaking on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Macron expressed dismay at a decision that would “to drag (Putin’s) country, and in particular his country’s youth, into the war.”

Macron added: “And so today, Russia is increasingly isolated.”

Putin ordered a partial mobilization of reservists Wednesday. It’s a risky and deeply unpopular step that follows humiliating setbacks for his troops nearly seven months after invading Ukraine.

U.S. President Joe Biden said the United States supports protests in Iran that sprung up in recent days after a 22-year-old woman died while being held by the morality police for violating the country’s strictly enforced Islamic dress code.

Speaking to the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday, Biden said: “Today we stand with the brave citizens and the brave women of Iran, who right now are demonstrating to secure their basic rights.”

Biden also explicitly called out human rights abuses by China, Burma and the Taliban in his remarks, saying, “The United States will always promote human rights and the values enshrined in the U.N. Charter in our own country and around the world.”

It has been three decades since the U.N. General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities. And the U.N.’s top officials say it’s never been more pressing to uphold its ideals than now.

The U.N. secretary-general and the president of the General Assembly convened a high-level meeting Wednesday to commemorate the anniversary and exhort members to renew efforts to protect and include minorities.

In his opening remarks, the president of the General Assembly said that 75% of the known stateless population across the world belonged to minority groups and more than 70% of the targets of hate speech or crimes are minorities. Csaba Kőrösi said the point of the meeting was not just to cast blame — but to find solutions.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres echoed the remarks, stressing that countries that protect minority rights are more peaceful and prosperous. He also noted how the coronavirus pandemic laid bare stark inequalities.

Iraqi human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad also spoke, using the plight of her Yazidi people to describe the importance of minority rights.

The meeting was expected to take much of the day, with more than 80 speakers on the roster for the general debate.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame has called accusations lobbed by neighboring Congo a “blame game” that does not solve the region’s problems.

Congo alleges that Rwanda is providing support to the M23 rebel movement, which reemerged last November after remaining mostly dormant for a decade. The rebels’ clashes with the Congolese military have killed hundreds and forced some 200,000 people to flee their homes.

Congo’s president reiterated those accusations at the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday.

Rwanda has repeatedly denied backing M23, and on Wednesday Kagame said Congo was responsible for cross-border attacks that were “entirely preventable.”

“In eastern (Congo), recent setbacks have served to highlight that the security situation is fundamentally no different than it was 20 years ago when the largest and most expensive United Nations peacekeeping mission was first deployed,” Kagame told U.N. the General Assembly.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari says developing countries are “literally paying the price” when it comes to climate change.

“Africa and other developing nations produce only a small proportion of greenhouse gas emissions, compared to industrial economies. Yet we are the hardest hit by the consequences of climate change as we see in the sustained droughts in Somalia and floods of unprecedented severity in Pakistan,” he told the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday.

“These and other climate-related occurrences are now sadly becoming widely commonplace in the developing world. We are, in effect, literally paying the price for policies that others pursue. This needs to change.”

Buhari says he hopes the UNGA and the upcoming COP27 climate conference “will help galvanize the political will required to drive action towards the fulfillment of the various existing climate-change initiatives.

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