- The Washington Times - Monday, September 18, 2017

In his debut at the United Nations, President Trump urged U.N. leaders Monday to cut their bloated bureaucracy, crack down on mismanagement and focus more on the core mission of promoting global peace.

“The United Nations was founded on truly noble goals,” Mr. Trump told diplomats at U.N. headquarters in New York. “Yet in recent years the United Nations has not reached its full potential because of bureaucracy and mismanagement.”

The president said the U.S., which pays nearly one-fourth of the U.N.’s annual budget, isn’t “seeing the results” of that investment in the 193-member world body.

But Mr. Trump, who derided the U.N. last December as “just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time,” also took a more diplomatic approach in his first appearance as president, praising U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for undertaking reforms of the world body.

The president, whose biggest event of the week will be his first address to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, also held a high-profile meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, perhaps Mr. Trump’s closest partner on the world stage.

Mr. Trump said there’s “a good chance” for a U.S.-brokered peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

“We are giving it an absolute go,” Mr. Trump said. “We’re working very hard on it. I actually think with the capability of Bibi and, frankly, the other side, I really think we have a chance.”

Mr. Netanyahu took a broader view, telling Mr. Trump that he wants their meeting to focus on “the terrible nuclear deal with Iran, and how to roll back Iran’s growing aggression in the region, especially in Syria.”

“We will discuss the way we can seize the opportunity for peace between Israel and the Palestinians and between Israel and the Arab world — I think these things go together,” the prime minister told Mr. Trump.

Asked by reporters about his plans for the Iran nuclear deal, Mr. Trump responded, “You’ll be seeing very soon.”

White House counselor Jared Kushner and advisers Jason Greenblatt and Dina Powell recently held meetings in the Middle East on restarting peace talks. A senior White House official said it was “a very productive trip.”

“Those peace conversations are continuing at a steady pace and will be mostly separate from the United Nations meetings,” the official said. “Achieving peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians remains one of the president’s highest priorities, but the United Nations meetings will primarily focus on other issues and serve as check-in opportunities.”

Mr. Trump reiterated that he believes all parties want to strike a peace agreement.

“I think Israel would like to see it, I think the Palestinians would like to see it, and I can tell you that the Trump administration would like to see it. We’re working very hard on it. We’ll see what happens,” he said.

Mr. Netanyahu, who clashed frequently with former President Barack Obama, praised Mr. Trump’s support of Israel at the U.N.

“Under your leadership the alliance between America and Israel has never been stronger, never been deeper,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “Under President Trump, America’s position toward Israel at the U.N. has been unequivocal, it’s been strong, [and] it’s got both clarity and conviction.”

The president also met with French President Emmanuel Macron, whose government is pressing the U.S. not to back out of the Iranian nuclear deal approved by Mr. Obama and other world powers. Mr. Trump must decide by Oct. 15 whether to certify Iran is keeping its end of the agreement, which lifted economic sanctions in return for Tehran halting its suspected weapons development.

He has called the agreement “the worst deal ever negotiated.”

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters it is “essential to maintain” the deal to avoid proliferation.

“In this period, when we see the risks with North Korea, we must maintain this line,” he said.

White House aides say one of Mr. Trump’s goals this week will be to encourage the U.N. to operate more efficiently and effectively, mindful of the heavy cost burden borne by U.S. taxpayers.

Mr. Trump said the U.N. budget has increased by 140 percent, and its staff has more than doubled since 2000, but “we are not seeing the results in line with this investment.”

The U.S. pays 22 percent, or $1.2 billion, of the U.N.’s regular budget, based on a formula calculated by the size of a country’s economy and other factors.

But the U.S. also pays for a dozen other U.N. agencies and operations, with peacekeeping as the largest. The U.S. share of that cost in 2016 was more than 28 percent, or $2.2 billion.

“We seek a United Nations that regains the trust of the people around the world,” the president said. “In order to achieve this, the United Nations must hold every level of management accountable, protect whistleblowers and focus on results rather than on process.”

Similar to his call for NATO members to pay more of their fair share for the common defense, Mr. Trump urged the U.N. to pursue changes that will result in no member states shouldering a “disproportionate share” of military or financial burdens. He said peacekeeping missions must have “clearly defined goals” for its members.

“They deserve to see the value of the United Nations, and it is our job to show it to them,” Mr. Trump said.

The president said the U.N. shouldn’t be beholden to “ways of the past, which were not working.”


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