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Biden urges unity at UN amid tensions with allies

22 September 2021


BBC News :
In his first address to the United Nations, US President Joe Biden has urged global cooperation through "a decisive decade for our world".
His calls for unity come amid tensions with allies over the US' Afghanistan withdrawal and a major diplomatic row with France over a submarine deal.
The US also announced it was doubling its climate finance pledge by 2024.
Reaffirming his support for democracy and diplomacy, Mr Biden said: "We must work together like never before."
The 76th General Assembly in New York City takes place against the backdrop of a climate crisis and a once-in-a-century pandemic, both of which have sharpened global divides.
Mr Biden pushed for cooperation on these fronts, saying: "Whether we choose to fight for our shared future or not will reverberate for generations to come. Simply put, we stand, in my view, at an inflection point in history."
What else did Biden say?
Mr Biden on Tuesday stressed that the US is "not seeking a new Cold War or a world divided into rigid blocs".
The US, he said, "is ready to work with any nation that steps up and pursues peaceful resolution to shared challenges, even if we have intense disagreements in other areas".
The remark appeared to be a response to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who this weekend warned the US and China were headed for "a Cold War that would be different from the past one, and probably more dangerous and more difficult to manage". The president also touted the pullout from Afghanistan, which has been criticised by allies at home and abroad, saying the US was ending a "period of relentless war" for a "new era of relentless diplomacy".
Mr Biden offered a key pledge on climate finance as well, saying the US will increase funding for developing countries to $11.4bn (£8.3bn) by 2024. This means the US will offer just over half of the European Union's pledge to help poorer nations cope with climate change.
Has climate pledge to poor countries been met?
The developed world had pledged to provide these countries $100bn a year by 2020 but this has still not been achieved.
At the end of his first address, Mr Biden promised that the US would lead "with our allies".
"We will lead on all the greatest challenges of our time, from Covid to climate, human dignity and human rights, but we will not go it alone," he said.
Why are allies sceptical?
World leaders at odds with former President Donald Trump had hoped for a more stable and reliable America under his successor's leadership - but Mr Biden's most recent foreign policy moves have made some uneasy.
The US' lack of coordination during the Afghanistan exit after two decades of war rankled allies and led to an international scramble to evacuate. The Nato mission at the time of the withdrawal comprised troops from 36 countries, three-quarters of whom were non-American.
How Europe's relationship with Joe Biden turned sour
Last week, a trilateral US-UK deal to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines infuriated the French, who had their own five-year-old contract to build conventional submarines for the Australians. French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described the agreement as "a stab in the back", and the top French diplomats in both countries were recalled.
The Biden administration has also seen international criticism over alleged US hoarding of Covid-19 vaccines and non-reciprocal travel restrictions, as well as frugality with climate aid.
Calling this an "inflection point in history", Joe Biden laid out an ambitious international agenda in his UN speech.
He pledged the US would work with the world to end the Covid-19 pandemic, address climate change, defend human rights, strengthen the international system and reduce income inequality.
The president noted that these challenges do not lend themselves to solutions that rely on the "force of arms".
That may have prompted scoffs from the French, still sore over losing a multi-billion-dollar arms deal with Australia to the US.
Biden's speech effectively brushed off that spat, instead focusing on a US foreign policy he sees as transitioning from "relentless war" to "relentless diplomacy".
After touching on global hotspots such Iran, Yemen, North Korea and the Palestinians, he said he did not want a new Cold War or a world divided into "rigid blocs" - a line surely directed at China.
That pledge will be tested as the US continues to craft diplomatic alliances seemingly designed to restrain expanding Chinese ambitions - alliances and agreements that, as with the French, may not always please US allies.
Biden's speech set out the vision. Realising it will be a daunting task.

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