On September 25th, following Trump’s speech at the UN General Assembly, Turkish President Recep Taiyyp Erdogan, French President Emmanuel Macron and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had their turns.
Directly following Trump’s speech, Erdogan lashed out at the European Union. He spoke about the refugee crisis, resulting from the war in Syria, the Turkish leader said that the EU has not done enough to support efforts made by Turkey.
He said: “Turkey has welcomed four million refugees during the last years, 3.4m of which came from Syria. This is an unprecedented phenomenon on a global scale. We have spent about $32billion for the care of the refugees so far. Furthermore, we have provided aid to millions of people in need across the country. But the EU only allocated €3bn to Turkey. We expect more generous and flexible support mainly from the EU.”
He further accused the UN of no longer representing the interests of its members, he demanded for the world body to take steps toward modernization. “The world is greater than five countries, the UN today represents a different world than the one we were left with after World War II. The UN now represents hundreds of countries under its roof, why shouldn’t they be represented in the permanent seats in the security council?” he commented.
He referred to the UN Security Council in which five countries have permanent seats – Russia, the US, France, the UK and China.
According to his claims, Turkey is the “voice of the world,” worried that the UN is incapable of dealing with many issues – such as the crisis between the Palestinians and Israel. In his opinion, the UN are just verbally condemning certain situations without acting to stop injustice.
He also spoke about issues directly interesting Turkey. Erdogan said Turkey could not remain silent over the use of sanctions issued by members of the UN as weapons while Turkey is in a bitter standoff with the United States over the fate of a Christian pastor detained by Ankara.
“None of us can remain silent to the arbitrary cancellation of commercial agreements and the use of economic sanctions as weapons. We are in favor of solving our problems through conducting a constructive dialogue on equal terms,” he added.
Interesting to note is that Turkish President Erdogan left the hall of the UN General Assembly when US President Donald Trump began to speak, people speculated that he left in disrespect to Trump. A correspondent of the Turkish government newspaper Sabah Ragip Soilu, who is in New York said that he simply left to prepare for his speech, which followed the US leader’s. “The fact that Erdogan left the meeting room during Trump’s speech is not true. He simply moved to another room to go to other room, as his performance is planned next to Trump,” Soilu wrote on Twitter.
Following that, French President Emmanuel Macron had his turn. He delivered a rebuke of US policies under the Trump administration. He also signaled that he is prepared to “take up the mantle of global leadership,” which is usually assumed by a US leader.
He condemned the Trump administration’s policies on Iran, climate change, the UN, migration and Middle East peace, among other things. He also commented on the center piece of Trump’s speech – sovereignty and the US administration’s intent to distance itself from international agreements and groups, basically Trump’s vow of isolationism.
“I shall never stop upholding the principal of sovereignty,” Macron told the General Assembly, “even in the face of certain nationalism which we’re seeing today, brandishing sovereignty as a way of attacking others.”
Instead of echoing Trump’s emphasis on countries’ independence, Macron had something else in mind, something that resulted in applause, rather than laughter.
“Only collective action allows for the upholding of the sovereignty and equality of the people in whose name we take action,” Macron said. “This is the reason we must take action against climate, demographic and digital challenges. No one alone can tackle these.”
“Nationalism always leads to defeat,” said Macron, who couched his remarks in the historical context of Europe’s world wars. “If courage is lacking in the defense of fundamental principles, international order becomes fragile and this can lead as we have already seen twice, to global war. We saw that with our very own eyes.”
As the US launches trade wars and turns its back on regional trade pacts in favor of deals with single countries, Macron pointedly said, “bilateral agreements, new protectionisms, will not work.”
He commented on the importance of the UN. “At a time when our collective system is falling apart, it is most in demand,” Macron said. “We shall support those working for peace and humanity,” he said and then mentioned several arms of the UN that the Trump administration has stopped funding, criticized or withdrawn from.
Regarding the Iran Nuclear Deal, Macron had the following to say: “How will we solve the situation in Iran and what has already allowed us to make progress,” he asked. “Was it the power of the very few or the strongest? No.”
Macron also spoke about the Palestinians and Israel, claiming that unilateral initiatives such as the US moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would not work. Macron told the assembly that “there is no credible alternative to the two-state solution.” The solution has yet to be unequivocally approved by Trump.
He was harshest regarding climate change. “Here there can be no short change,” Macron declared, adding that even “those who deny it” are suffering the consequences. “In refusing collective actions certain individuals only make themselves more vulnerable,” the French leader said.
Macron praised the countries upholding the Paris agreement and proposed: “Let’s stop signing trade agreements with those who don’t comply with the Paris agreement,” which the US did not sign.
He finished with a call to not give up on multilateralism and that collective work will prove right.
A few speeches later came, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s speech. He had no pleasant words for the US, saying that the Trump administration “seems determined to render all international institutions ineffectual.”
He promised to respond to the US sanctions, but he also said that Iran does not desire war.
“Our proposal is clear: commitment for commitment; violation for violation; threat for threat; and step for step, instead of talk for talk … What Iran says is clear: no war, no sanctions, no threats, no bullying; just acting according to the law and the fulfilment of obligations,” he said.
Rouhani said Iran was pleased other countries did not “acquiesce” to the US demands to break the deal. According to him, unilateral sanctions “constitute a form of economic terrorism and a breach of the right for development.”
Rouhani came across as much more mature than Trump, calling the US conduct in international relations authoritarian and inviting it back into the Iran Trade Deal.
Rouhani further said that the question of international security “is not a toy in American domestic politics,” Rouhani said. “The UN is not a part of the United States administration.”
The Iranian leader said his country supports peace and democracy in the Middle East. There is “no better way than dialogue,” he said, while also stating that dialogue is a two-way street.
“Iran, Russia, and Turkey, in cooperation with the government of Syria and other Syrian parties met in Tehran earlier this month and through the Astana Process, succeeded in reducing tensions in Syria, specially preventing escalation and bloodshed in the Idlib region,” Rouhani said. They achieved it through dialogue, bilateral one.
He also claimed that Iran wishes for better relations with Gulf states, with a “collective mechanism” for the region with all countries in the region participating.
Rouhani further said that the “most pressing” crisis in the Middle East is the Palestinian-Israel conflict. “The innumerable crimes of Israel against the Palestinians” would not have been possible without the support of the US.
He finished his speech with a strong message: “Iran does not need an empire. Iran is an empire in terms of its civilization and culture – not through political domination. The world will not have a better friend than Iran if peace is what you seek,” Rouhani said.
The National reported that US national security adviser John Bolton, however, is due to warn Iranian leaders that they do not trust the regime and there will be consequences for aggression.
It appears that most leaders spoke about global or local issues, with proposed solutions, which involved dialogue and cooperation. The exception was Trump, who spoke of isolationism and boasted US “progress,” thus becoming a laughing stock.