UN chief discusses universal development targets with Bulgarian President

Mr. Ban and President Rossen Plevneliev met at the United Nations Headquarters in New York where they discussed achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the eight anti-poverty targets agreed by world leaders at a UN summit in 2000, setting specific goals on poverty alleviation, education, gender equality, child and maternal health, environmental stability, HIV/AIDS reduction, and a global partnership for development. The two officials also noted the importance of a framework on sustainable agenda for the years after 2015, the deadline for achieving the MDGs. According to a readout of the meeting, Mr. Ban briefed Mr. Plevneliev on the latest international efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis. “The Secretary-General expressed his appreciation for Bulgaria’s generosity towards Syrian asylum-seekers,” according to the readout. So far this year, Bulgaria has received about 3,000 asylum applications, mainly from the Middle East and Africa, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported. This is three times the yearly average of the past decade. August saw a sharp rise to some 50 new arrivals – mainly Syrian families – per day. More than 100,000 people have died, 4.25 million people have been displaced within the country, and at least another two million are refugees since fighting began in March 2011 between the Syrian Government and opposition groups seeking to oust President Bashar Al-Assad. Mr. Ban and the Joint Special Representative of the UN and the League of Arab States, Lakhdar Brahimi, have repeatedly urged a political solution to the conflict through a comprehensive agreement between the Government and the opposition for the full implementation of the Geneva communiqué of 30 June 2012. The Syria conflict will be among the main topics of discussion at the annual high-level General Assembly debate, which starts on Tuesday.