By Michael Pearson and Jim Acosta
(CNN – Sept. 24, 2014) — President Barack Obama took his call for world cooperation against terror, climate change, Ebola and a host of other issues to the United Nations Wednesday, saying the world stands at a crossroads “between war and peace; between disorder and integration; between fear and hope.”
“And at this crossroads, I can promise you that the United States of America will not be distracted or deterred from what must be done,” Obama told the delegates. “We are heirs to a proud legacy of freedom, and we’re prepared to do what is necessary to secure that legacy for generations to come.”
His address came amid numerous international crises in which the United States finds itself at the forefront, including the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, lingering tensions in Ukraine and the spread of Ebola in Africa, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week said could infect as many as 1.4 million people by early next year.
But, Obama said, the United States cannot alone.
He said many of the world’s problems are the result of “the failure of our international system to keep pace with an interconnected world” and urged greater adherence to international norms and more cooperation in the fight against extremism.
And he said world leaders must decide on two defining issues: “Whether the nations here today will be able to renew the purpose of the U.N.’s founding, and whether we will come together to reject the cancer of violent extremism.”
Here’s how he addressed each issue:
Ukraine: Russia’s involvement in Ukraine represents “a vision of the world in which might makes right — a world in which one nation’s borders can be redrawn by another, and civilized people are not allowed to recover the remains of their loved ones because of the truth that might be revealed,” Obama said, referring to efforts to recover the remains of victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, shot down over Ukraine in July.
If Russia rolls back its involvement, the United States “will lift our sanctions and welcome Russia’s role in addressing common challenges,” Obama said.
Ebola: While the United States is sending medical workers and the military to build treatment centers in Africa, the President called for a “broader effort to stop a disease that could kill hundreds of thousands, inflict horrific suffering, destabilize economies, and move rapidly across borders.”
Iran’s nuclear program: Obama urged Iranian leaders to work with the United States and others to resolve Western concerns over the country’s nuclear program. “We can reach a solution that meets your energy needs while assuring the world that your program is peaceful,” he said.
Global poverty: “We will do our part — to help people feed themselves; power their economies; and care for their sick,” he said. “If the world acts together, we can make sure that all of our children can enjoy lives of opportunity and dignity.”
Climate change: The United States will work on the issue within its own borders, but “we can only succeed in combating climate change if we are joined in this effort by every major power,” Obama said. “That’s how we can protect this planet for our children and grandchildren.”
Terrorism: Obama warned that one issue stands to undo much of the progress made since World War II: “the cancer of violent extremism that has ravaged so many parts of the Muslim world.”
“Collectively, we must take concrete steps to address the danger posed by religiously motivated fanatics, and the trends that fuel their recruitment,” he said.
“No God condones this terror. No grievance justifies these actions. There can be no reasoning — no negotiation — with this brand of evil,” he said. “The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force. So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.”
But, he said, efforts must also be made to address the underlying factors leading to the rise of extremism, including education, women’s rights and other issues.
He called for a “new compact among the civilized peoples of this world to eradicate war at its most fundamental source: the corruption of young minds by violent ideology.”
“No children — anywhere — should be educated to hate other people,” he said. “There should be no more tolerance of so-called clerics who call upon people to harm innocents because they are Jewish, Christian or Muslim.”
Security Council meeting
Later Wednesday, Obama was scheduled to lead a special session of the U.N. Security Council focused on ISIS, which calls itself the “Islamic State.” The terror group has seized portions of Syria and Iraq, prompting the United States and now some other nations to launch airstrikes against it.
The council is expected to consider a resolution requiring U.N. member states to take steps to make it more difficult for people to travel overseas to join ISIS, a growing problem for some European countries, particularly.