New York (CNN) - President Barack Obama's decision not hold any bilateral meetings with world leaders while in New York to address the United Nations General Assembly is a departure from the last incumbent president to run for re-election.
In 2004, while in an election fight with Sen. John Kerry, President George W. Bush held meetings with leaders from Iraq, Japan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
White House press secretary Jay Carney defended the president on Monday, saying he has held "extensive consultations with world leaders, including the leaders of Egypt, Israel, Yemen, Turkey, Libya."
"Those consultations will continue, not just with leaders in the region, but with leaders around the world. It is part of the job of being president that that be the case, and he will certainly encounter many leaders tonight in New York as well as tomorrow," Carney said.
By avoiding meetings with world leaders the president sidesteps any inadvertent news-making moments. And if Obama were to take a meeting with one ally, that would undoubtedly open the door to other requests. Therefore the president has left the one-on-ones to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who will meet with the leaders from Pakistan, Libya, Afghanistan and Egypt among others.
Some highlights of the president's high stakes diplomatic speech Wednesday:
On Israel and Palestine:
"One year ago, I stood at this podium and called for an independent Palestine. I believed then – and I believe now – that the Palestinian people deserve a state of their own. But what I also said is that genuine peace can only be realized between Israelis and Palestinians themselves.
...I know that many are frustrated by the lack of progress. So am I. But the question isn't the goal we seek – the question is how to reach it. And I am convinced that there is no short cut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN – if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now. Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians – not us – who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and security; on refugees and Jerusalem."
"America's commitment to Israel's security is unshakeable, and our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring. And so we believe that any lasting peace must acknowledge the very real security concerns that Israel faces every single day. Let's be honest: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel's citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. Israel's children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them. Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, looks out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map. The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile, persecution, and the fresh memory of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they were.
These facts cannot be denied. The Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland. Israel deserves recognition. It deserves normal relations with its neighbors. And friends of the Palestinians do them no favors by ignoring this truth, just as friends of Israel must recognize the need to pursue a two state solution with a secure Israel next to an independent Palestine.
That truth – that each side has legitimate aspirations – is what makes peace so hard. And the deadlock will only be broken when each side learns to stand in each other's shoes.
...The measure of our actions must always be whether they advance the right of Israeli and Palestinian children to live in peace and security, with dignity and opportunity. We will only succeed in that effort if we can encourage the parties to sit down together, to listen to each other, and to understand each other's hopes and fears. That is the project to which America is committed. And that is what the United Nations should be focused on in the weeks and months to come.
"From Tripoli to Misratah to Benghazi – today, Libya is free. Yesterday, the leaders of a new Libya took their rightful place beside us, and this week, the United States is reopening our Embassy in Tripoli. This is how the international community is supposed to work – nations standing together for the sake of peace and security; individuals claiming their rights."
On the Arab spring:
"Osama bin Laden is gone, and the idea that change could only come through violence has been buried with him. Something is happening in our world. The way things have been is not the way they will be. The humiliating grip of corruption and tyranny is being pried open.
...But let us remember: peace is hard. Progress can be reversed. Prosperity comes slowly. Societies can split apart. The measure of our success must be whether people can live in sustained freedom, dignity, and security. And the United Nations and its member states must do their part to support those basic aspirations." FULL POST
The General Assembly is the main deliberative organ of the UN and is composed of representatives of all Member States. The work of the United Nations year-round derives largely from the mandates given by the General Assembly.
The United Nations General Assembly meets the third Tuesday of every September and is made up of 193 Member States.
The newest member state is South Sudan, which was admitted as a new Member State by the United Nations General Assembly on July 14, 2011.
Information from www.un.org
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