President Barack Obama called for “cooperation over conflict” Monday at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, pointing to the historic Iran nuclear accord as an example of diplomacy making the world safer.
“For two years, the U.S. and our partners – including Russia, including China – stuck together in complex negotiations. The result is a lasting comprehensive deal that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” Obama told the international gathering.
If the deal is upheld, Obama added, “a potential war is averted. Our world is safer.”
Despite his emphasis on the nuclear accord, the president received his loudest applause when he denounced the United States’ decades-long trade embargo on Cuba. “Change won’t come overnight to Cuba, but I’m confident that openness, not coercion, will better” the lives of the Cuban people, Obama said.
Obama called on the United Nations to work toward international cooperation and the recognition of a common humanity. The president’s speech came a day after Pope Francis wrapped up a six-day visit to the U.S. in which the pontiff touched on similar themes.
“As his holiness Pope Francis reminds us, we are stronger when we value the least among these and see them as equal in dignity to ourselves and our sons and our daughters,” Obama said.
Later Monday, Obama is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two leaders, whose relationship has been strained in recent years, are expected to discuss Syria and Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. During his speech to the General Assembly, Obama condemned Russia’s recent actions, including the annexation of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine.
“We cannot stand by when the sovereignty of a nation is flagrantly violated. If that can happen in Ukraine it can happen in any country here today.”
Obama also addressed the ongoing violence in Syria and the rise of the Islamic State. “When a dictator slaughters tens of thousands of his own people, that is not just a matter of one nation’s internal affairs. It breeds human suffering on a magnitude that affects us all,” Obama said of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The chaos in the region has given rise to the brutal terror group the Islamic State, which has taken over large swaths of Syria and neighboring Iraq.
“I’ve said before and I will repeat there is no room for accommodating an apocalyptic cult like ISIL,” Obama said, using an acronym to identify the group.
The conflict has also driven millions of refugees to flee their homes in search of safety. Obama highlighted the United States’ promise to accept more refugees, saying, “Our nation of immigrants sees ourselves” in those seeking a better life.