23:44 GMT03 December 2020
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    The 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City is going into high gear this week as world leaders prepare to address the body and hold high-level sessions and bilateral meetings focusing on urgent geopolitical issues. Let Sputnik bring you up to speed on the four things to watch out for at this year's General Assembly.

    Iran: Tensions Over Nuke Deal & Barbs Over Parade Attack

    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and US President Donald Trump are set to speak from the same dais on Tuesday amid a recent exchange of barbs between Tehran and Washington, which could spill over into their General Assembly remarks. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday that Trump would be willing to engage in 'constructive dialogue' with Iranian officials, including on the sidelines of the General Assembly, but it's unclear whether this will be possible amid recent tensions between the two countries. On Tuesday, Trump tweeted that he had "no plans" to meet Rouhani "despite requests."

    US President Donald Trump speaks to reporters in the Diplomatic Room at the White House in Washington, DC
    © REUTERS / Jonathan Ernst
    The Iranian government has accused the US of reneging on its commitment to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the landmark 2015 nuclear deal that Washington pulled out of in May. Monday saw meetings between the foreign ministers of the agreement's other signatories, including Russia, China, France, Germany, the UK and the European Union attempt to work out how to move forward on preserving the deal amid harsh unilateral US sanctions, which are expected to target not only Tehran, but foreign companies doing business in the country.

    Already-poor relations between the two countries took a turn for the worse over the weekend, after a terrorist attack at a military parade in southern Iran killed at least 25 people and injured scores more. Iran's Supreme Leader has accused Washington's "puppets" Saudi Arabia and the UAE of complicity in the attack. President Rouhani has already decried US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley after she intimated that Tehran itself was to blame for the attack, and asked Americans to reflect on how they would react if Iran made similar remarks about the 9/11 attacks.

    Syria: Idlib Deal & More

    The Russian, Iranian and Turkish foreign ministers, the representatives of the three states serving as guarantors of the Syrian ceasefire, will use the General Assembly as another opportunity to hold meetings on the issue. The meetings will come following last week's agreement between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the creation of a demilitarized zone in Idlib, the final holdout of anti-Damascus militants in Syria. 

    Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Russia's representative at this year's General Assembly, will lead his delegation in the Syria talks. UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura will also be taking part in high-level talks on Idlib. The UN has pleaded with Syria and its allies not to launch an operation to liberate Idlib, warning that doing so could lead to a "humanitarian catastrophe."

    Korean Peninsula: Pompeo Set to Meet With North Korean Counterpart

    When it comes to the Korean Peninsula, this year's General Assembly is expected to be a marked contrast from that of 2017, when President Donald Trump threatened to  "totally destroy" North Korea and maligned North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as "Rocket Man" in his inaugural address. In the year since, North and South Korea began a historic reconciliation, with the two countries pledging to bring a formal end to the Korean War, end hostilities along the border, and to begin the denuclearization of the peninsula. President Trump also had a change of heart on North Korea, meeting with Kim in Singapore earlier this year and committing to a second meeting sometime before the year is out.

    Secretary Pompeo confirmed that it has invited North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-Ho to meet on the sidelines of the General Assembly. South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with President Trump on Monday, handing Trump a message, its contents unknown, from Kim Jong-un.

    Russia's Message to the UN

    In his many meetings on the sidelines of the General Assembly, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov is expected to focus on the over-arching theme of boosting the UN's role in international relations and promoting the creation of a multi-polar world order, as well as preventing some states' attempts to destabilize the system of international affairs.

    According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Lavrov will speak on issues including the deployment of weapons in outer space, international cooperation on peaceful nuclear energy, the fight against drug trafficking and organized crime, and international cooperation against corruption.

    Lavrov is also expected to focus on the Iranian nuclear deal, Syria and North Korea, as well as the situation in the breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine, where elections are expected to be held in November. That region has faced an uneasy ceasefire since 2015, with Russia serving as a guarantor of the Minsk agreements. On Syria, it is believed that Lavrov will touch on fears of new staged chemical attacks in the province of Idlib, aimed at prompting a Western military response.


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