Theresa May will urge UN to act against terrorism targeted at air travel


International action is needed to protect passenger jets and airports from terrorism, Theresa May will tell world leaders at the United Nations.

The Prime Minister will push for a Security Council resolution calling for standards to be raised worldwide amid concerns that airports could be targeted as a weak link by groups such as Islamic State.

She will join leaders in New York on Monday for a summit which will also focus on the migration crisis, with US president Barack Obama and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon keen to secure progress before they leave their posts.

Mrs May's drive for action on aviation security follows the downing of a Russian Metrojet flight from Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt in October 2015 and the attacks at airports in Brussels and Istanbul this year.

As heads of state and leaders of government gather for the UN General Assembly (UNGA), UK officials said Mrs May wanted to ensure that security measures were fully implemented in airports around the world.

At her first UNGA as Prime Minister, Mrs May will be joined by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and International Development Secretary Priti Patel.

The UK has been calling for action at a UN level on aviation security and hopes to achieve a "landmark" Security Council resolution later this week.

"In the wake of the Metrojet disaster last year, the attacks on Brussels and Istanbul airports, we have been doing work in the UK to look at the threat worldwide to aviation and what more could be done on it," a source said.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (Icao) has a series of security standards but the UK believes more can be done to implement them fully.

The UK already has a network of aviation security liaison officers helping countries around the world to help improve protection against terrorism.

The push for a UN Security Council resolution, expected to be considered after Mrs May has left New York, comes ahead of Icao's assembly later in September.

A UK official said: "Part of this is about looking at how, if you bring together a broad number of countries, you can use the expertise of some to help others where we would like to see more being done - either because they are less developed countries that maybe don't have the financing and resourcing to put into it, or maybe they could just benefit from some of the practical expertise that others have built up."

The source added the approach was about making sure that "every element" of the process, from arriving at the airport to taking off, is as safe as possible.

"We have been doing work with the Egyptians following the Metrojet disaster to look at the arrangements that they have there, along with other countries," the official said.

There have been suggestions following the attacks on passengers that security screening could be moved to airport entrances rather than at the point travellers move through to the departure lounge, but the official stressed that operational matters were for Icao to decide.

"This is more about saying there are already international standards set by Icao that we accept are at broadly the right level at the moment, the problem is they are not being implemented in practice."

Mrs May will make her formal address to the UNGA on Tuesday, at an earlier slot in the proceedings than the UK Prime Minister normally gets, reflecting the interest in her as a new leader.

She will also take part in a summit on refugees and migration on Monday as well as an event on the issue hosted by Mr Obama.

The talks will focus on a "more co-ordinated approach to managing migration, to better protecting refugees and being able to help them and also deal with some of the challenges that countries face from the scale of migration we have seen", UK officials said.

Mrs May will also use the New York gathering to meet US business leaders and have a series of talks with counterparts from around the world as she attempts to show the the UK remains a global player following the Brexit vote.

She will also push for international action to tackle modern-day slavery, drawing on her experience as home secretary.

The UN meeting takes place as the candidates to replace Mr Ban jockey for position ahead of the appointment of a new secretary general after his second five-year term expires at the end of the year.

There have been calls for a woman to take the job, but the UK wants to see the role "appointed on merit" to a "strong and effective leader".