Here's the schedule of today's speakers before the assembly. "Statements should be no longer than 15 minutes," warns current assembly president John Ashe. Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff has just begun speaking.
Welcome to our live blog coverage of the 68th United Nations General Assembly. The session is stirring unusual excitement: it could produce the first face-to-face meeting between a US and an Iranian president since the hostage crisis, open a new way forward on negotiations over Iran's nuclear program; render a map for future international involvement in Syria's civil war, and set the stage for a new round of Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy.
Both US president Barack Obama and Iranian president Hassan Rouhani are scheduled to address the group of more than 200 national leaders in New York today (Obama speaks at 10am ET). Both leaders are expected to elaborate on expressions in the last weeks of mutual respect and a desire to interface. Rouhani is not two months in office and is the center of a great deal of optimism. Furthermore, according to former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami writing in the Guardian on Monday, Rouhani has the power to negotiate:
Explicit public support from the supreme leader of the Islamic republic provides Rouhani and his colleagues with the necessary authority for a diplomatic resolution of a number of foreign policy issues with the west, not just the nuclear issue.
The EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, met with Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in New York Monday. She said Zarif would meet with US secretary of state John Kerry on Thursday, in what would be the first ministerial talks between Tehran and Washington since the Islamic revolution in 1979.
Seasoned observers on all sides, and not just Israel, are counseling caution as a potential new phase of international conversation begins. The leaders of both Iran and Syria have projects they would like more time to complete – time that could be created by ultimately fruitless talk. But the assumption is the talks in New York this week don't have to be fruitless and might yield a breakthrough.
Headlines may also be provided by an early speech by the Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff. She cancelled a state visit to the US in protest at revelations that the National Security Agency had been spying on her personal communications and those of her aides. She may use the UN platform to tell Obama what she thinks of him.