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Europe's migrant crisis, Syria in the UN spotlight

Europe's worst and biggest migration crisis looms large over this year's gathering [Getty]

Date of publication: 30 September, 2015

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Syria's war and Europe's migration crisis take centre stage at the United Nations on Wednesday as world leaders work to overcome deep divisions over how to confront the turmoil.

The war in Syria and Europe's migration crisis take centre stage at the United Nations on Wednesday as world leaders work to overcome deep divisions over how to confront the turmoil.

Russia presides over a special Security Council meeting on countering terrorist threats that is bound to throw up sharp difference of views between Moscow and Washington over the crisis in Syria.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon separately hosts a meeting aimed at agreeing on a global response to the exodus of hundreds of thousands of migrants to Europe, many of whom have fled the war in Syria.

The UN chief opened the General Assembly this week with a call to Europe "to do more" to ensure migrants are treated with dignity as countries shut down borders and police use water cannons to push back refugees.

"We should not be building fences or walls, but above all we must look at root causes, in countries of origin," said Ban.

At the Security Council, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will chair a debate on terrorist threats amid intense diplomacy over reaching a political solution to the four-year war in Syria.

Russia will propose a UN Security Council resolution on combating terror groups during the meeting, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti news agency.

This year's UN debate kicked off with a public clash between President Barack Obama and Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin over fighting the Islamic State group and the future of President Bashar al-Assad.

At a US-led counter-terrorism summit on Tuesday, Obama bluntly declared that defeating IS extremists in Syria "requires a new leader," pressing demands for Assad to step down.

A key ally of Syria, Putin used his UN speech to call for a broad coalition against IS that would include Syria's army.

Global response

Europe's worst migration crisis since World War II looms large over this year's gathering as international efforts to end the war in Syria are in disarray.

On the eve of the migration talks, Hungary urged the United Nations to set global quotas on accepting migrants, saying it was unfair for Europe to take so many refugees fleeing Syria.

"We suggest that all major players should bear some burden. We should introduce some world quotas," Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told reporters.

"Europe is not in a shape to accept hundreds of thousands or even millions of economic migrants," Szijjarto said.

Almost 300,000 migrants have entered Hungary this year.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, whose country has taken in some two million Syrian refugees, will address the meeting attended by some 70 countries.

With European countries deeply divided over the migrant issue, it remains unclear whether the meeting at the United Nations will yield results.

"There is long way to go still to come to a more comprehensive long term policy instead of addressing the short term needs," William Swing, the head of the International Organisation for Migration told AFP.

Countries need to "come to an understanding that migration is a mega-trend of our century and depoliticise it," he said.

"It is important to try to do this in a more organised fashion."

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