Heads of state from around the globe gathered at United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York this week for the 67th Annual UN General Assembly.
A range of topics were discussed, including ways to settle unrest in the Middle East and North Africa and how to eradicate intolerance and instability on a global scale.
President Obama, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, spoke for roughly 30 minutes on Sept. 25, opening his address with recognition of fallen Ambassador Chris Stevens and the other three Americans killed as they attempted to evacuate the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
“Chris Stevens embodied the best of America, like his fellow Foreign Service officers, he built bridges across oceans and cultures and was deeply invested in the international cooperation that the United Nations represents,” said Obama.
Violence erupted in Benghazi and other U.S. embassies in the Middle East as a result of an anti-Islamic film, “The Innocence of Muslims,” that was released on YouTube and reposted over and over again online.
Though Obama acknowledged that the film was offensive, he added that free speech, supported by evolving technology, can no longer be controlled or used as an excuse for violence.
“The attacks on the civilians in Benghazi were attacks on America,” said Obama, thanking the Libyan people and government for their assistance. “There should be no doubt that we will be relentless in tracking down the killers and bringing them to justice.”
President Obama also spoke about the transitions of power in countries such as Libya and Yemen, the changes brought forth by the “Arab Spring,” and the threat of Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
“We respect the right of nations to access peaceful nuclear power, but one of the purposes of the United Nations is to see that we harness that power for peace,” said Obama. “And make no mistake, a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained.”
The president sent a strong warning to Iran and those behind the nuclear energy program that has put executive-in-chiefs around the globe on edge, saying that “time is not unlimited” when it comes to opportunities to “resolve this issue through diplomacy.”
The United Nations was founded shortly after World War II in 1945 with only 51 members. Today, there are 193 member states in the General Assembly that focus on building positive relationships, maintaining peace worldwide, eliminating hunger and disease, and promoting literacy on a global scale.
The 67th General Assembly will continue its forums, debates, and policymaking sessions until Oct. 1.
President Obama Speaks to the United Nations General Assembly