U.S. ‘too important’ to pull back in today’s world, U.N. chief says

Watch an excerpt of U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres’ interview about the U.S. role in the world.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said Friday the United States is “too important” of a country to reduce its role in global affairs, something President Donald Trump suggested as a candidate.

The United States’ engagement is very important “in the many situations we have around the world, be it in Syria, be it in different African contexts. The United States represents an important set of values: human rights, values relating to freedom, to democracy,” Guterres told PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff in his first television interview since becoming secretary general.

In order to fight terrorism and make sure Americans are secure, the United States must be part of “addressing the root causes of terror,” Guterres said. That means being engaged in humanitarian aid and cooperating with allies on development, he added.

The Trump administration has drawn some criticism early on for focusing on projecting military strength around the world while looking to scale back aid and development programs at the State Department. In his proposed budget, Mr. Trump called for steep funding cuts at the State Department.

But many terrorist attacks are perpetrated by homegrown extremists, Guterres said. We have to “recognize that for those societies to be harmonious, there is a lot of investment that needs to be made in social cohesion and inclusivity,” he said.

Watch part of U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres’ interview about the U.N. Security Council on Syria.

In the NewsHour interview, Guterres also touched on Syria. “The truth is that the Security Council has been now for a large period essentially divided, not only on Syria but on several other situations, and that division has led to paralysis of the capacity of the international community to come together and to push for an effective political solution in Syria.”

Guterres added that his role as secretary general — absent any military power — was to apply intense pressure on all sides to bring the years-long conflict to an end.

Guterres’ comments on Syria came roughly two weeks after the U.S. launched a cruise missile strike in Syria in response to a chemical weapons attack. The U.S. and some other countries believe the Syrian government is responsible for the attack. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has denied responsibility.

Watch Judy Woodruff’s full interview with Guterres on Friday’s broadcast: