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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Syria and Refugee Crisis to Dominate World Leaders UN Meetings

By Margaret Besheer September 16, 2016

Next week, world leaders gather in New York for their annual U.N. meetings. The war in Syria and the refugee crisis it has created are expected to dominate the agenda.

Leaders want to limit the spillover from the Syrian war. Mainly, the human exodus to overwhelmed neighboring countries and Europe. They will discuss the issue at two summits focusing on refugees. U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon will host the first meeting on Monday.

"More countries must re-settle more people who have been forced from their homes. More countries must recognize the benefits of migration. And everyone, everywhere, must stand up against the animosity that so many refugees, migrants and minority communities face," said Ban.

President Barack Obama will host a second summit on Tuesday. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Sheba Crocker expects action on humanitarian issues.

"We expect that the summit will result in significant new, sustained commitments to U.N. humanitarian appeals, expanded refugee resettlement programs or alternative legal pathways for admission," said Crocker.

But there is skepticism from some, such as Richard Gowan of Columbia University, that either summit will do much to improve the situation of the nearly 5 million Syrians who have fled their homeland.

"The only way you solve the Syrian crisis is through a political deal. I'm sure there will be some talk about that at the General Assembly, but Vladimir Putin is not coming to New York, and if Putin is not here, you cannot have serious talks about Syria," said Gowan.

The United States and Russia agreed to a deal earlier this month for a cease-fire and on getting aid into Syria. The two countries also plan to cooperate on targeting terrorists, including the so-called Islamic State. Whether that deal is working or failing will likely shape discussions in New York.

The U.N. Security Council will hold a high-level session Wednesday, intended to put the spotlight on Syria, but expectations for results are low.

"The reality is decisions about Syria are made in Washington, Moscow and Iran -- not in the Security Council chamber," said Gowan.

The rest of the week will be dominated by leaders' speeches in the General Assembly.

Some big names like Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and Angela Merkel will be absent. It will be President Obama's final time as U.S. president at the international gathering, and his speech will likely lay out his multilateralism legacy.

It will also be Ban Ki-moon's final General Assembly as U.N. chief. His decade-long tenure ends on December 31.

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