US President Donald Trump reiterated his administration’s intention to broker additional normalization agreements between Israel and other countries in the Middle East, during a virtual address Tuesday at the United Nations General Assembly.
Highlighting the Israel-UAE and Israel-Bahrain agreements signed last week at the White House, Trump called them “landmark breakthrough with two peace deals in the Middle East after decades of no progress.”
He then asserted that other nations will soon sign peace deals with Israel.
“They are coming fast, and they know it’s great for them and great for the world,” he said in a recorded message played to the annual meeting of the UN.
“We intend to deliver more peace agreements shortly, and I have never been more optimistic for the future of the region. There is no blood in the sand. Those days are hopefully over,” said Trump.
“These groundbreaking peace deals are the dawn of a new Middle East,” he continued. “By taking a different approach, we have achieved different outcomes — far superior outcomes.”
Echoing a slogan used by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to tout the recent agreements, Trump said the US-brokered deals represent “peace through strength.”
Trump then pivoted to Iran and the Islamic State.
“We withdrew from the terrible Iran nuclear deal and imposed crippling sanctions on the world’s leading state sponsor of terror,” he says, underlining the US killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.
Trump used the bulk of his address, though, to rail at China for what he said was its role in spreading the “China virus.”
Trump accused Beijing of allowing the coronavirus to “leave China and infect the world.”
“The United Nations must hold China accountable for their actions,” he said.
Broadcast over a large screen in the UN General Assembly hall, the US president effectively transferred his hawkish campaign stump speech to the global stage.
Trump accused China of only looking out for its own interests when the potentially lethal virus first appeared in the city of Wuhan late last year.
And he said “the Chinese government, and the World Health Organization — which is virtually controlled by China — falsely declared that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission.”
“Later, they falsely said people without symptoms would not spread the disease,” he added.
China, in response, accused Trump of spreading a “political virus.”
“When the international community is really fighting hard against the Covid-19, the United States is spreading a political virus here in the General Assembly,” China’s ambassador to the United Nations, Zhang Jun, told reporters. “I have to emphasize that the US noise is incompatible with the general atmosphere of the General Assembly,” he said.
The US president, in his speech, also criticized world powers for lambasting the US’s environmental record.
“They only want to punish America and I will not stand for it,” he said. “If the United Nations wants to be an effective organization, it must focus on the real problems of the world. This includes terrorism, oppression of women… human and sex trafficking,” and other issues.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, opening the General Assembly earlier Tuesday, warned of the risks of rising tensions between the US and China.
“We must do everything to avoid a new Cold War,” Guterres said.
“We are moving in a very dangerous direction. Our world cannot afford a future where the two largest economies split the globe in a Great Fracture — each with its own trade and financial rules and internet and artificial intelligence capacities.”
The Trump administration has launched a global campaign against the influence of China, pushing back on its claims in the South China Sea and warning nations of the risks of accepting its lavish infrastructure spending.
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan applauded Trump following the president’s speech.
“The United States and Israel are forging a new path for peace in the Middle East. Thank you to President Trump for helping lead this new effort, proving that ‘peace through strength’ is the right formula, and that partnership with a strong Israel is good for the region,” Erdan tweeted.
World leaders are speaking virtually to the UN session in New York, due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Trump, who has frequently downplayed the risks posed by the coronavirus, had previously said he would give his General Assembly speech in person, before apparently changing his mind.