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UN chief to push pandemic ceasefire at world leaders meeting, but fears opportunities will be lost

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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will use his annual address to world leaders next week to push for a global ceasefire until the end of 2020 so that countries may fight the coronavirus pandemic, but he said opportunities would be lost because presidents and prime ministers are not physically in New York.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres poses for a photo during an interview with Reuters at UN headquarters in New York, New York, United States on September 14, 2020. Photo taken on September 14, 2020. REUTERS / Mike Segar

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin were due to make rare appearances at UN headquarters to help mark the 75th anniversary of the 193-member global body. The pandemic means, however, that the two are among some 170 heads of state and government expected to make video statements during the week-long meeting starting September 22.

US President Donald Trump is the only leader to consider delivering his speech in person on day one, when Guterres will also deliver his speech in person.

The gathering to mark the start of a new session of the General Assembly has already been called diplomatic speed dating by some officials due to the hundreds of meetings that traditionally take place on the sidelines.

It is obvious that diplomacy depends a lot on human contact. And so we’ll have a loss because of that, especially in what is my first priority at the moment … implementing the global ceasefire, Guterres told Reuters on Monday at the United Nations.

SIGNALS OF HOPE

Since the first call for a ceasefire in March as the coronavirus spread, Guterres said there had already been positive signals with the peace accords in Sudan, the start of talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, a lull in violence in places like Syria and Libya. and Ukraine and intense negotiations on a truce leading to talks in Yemen.

There are signs of hope, but we must mobilize the entire international community to make this global ceasefire a reality until the end of the year, said Guterres, a former prime minister from Portugal, who started a five-year term at the UN. chef in 2017.

Guterres said a global ceasefire would strengthen efforts to contain COVID-19 and help create the conditions for a coordinated, sustainable and inclusive recovery from the pandemic.

He initially called for a global truce on March 23, but it took more than three months for the 15 members of the UN Security Council to officially support his call due to a standoff between the United States and China. . Washington did not want the resolution to refer to the World Health Organization, unlike Beijing.

MOMENT OF TRUTH

Simmering tensions between the United States and China have escalated during the pandemic as Washington blames Beijing for a lack of transparency that has contributed to the global spread of COVID-19, which has emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan. last year.

Globally, there have been nearly 30 million new coronavirus infections and more than 900,000 deaths, according to a Reuters tally.

As the United Nations marks the 75th anniversary of its establishment after World War II – to prevent a similar conflict from happening again – Mr Guterres said multilateralism must reform to better reflect today’s world. hui.

If … in this moment of truth we are able to make the reforms necessary to have a really clean multilateralism and a really inclusive multilateralism, I believe that multilateralism will prevail and that nationalism, the populism that spreads in the end, will fail. , he said.

He said the pandemic and issues such as climate change, anarchy in cyberspace and renewed nuclear proliferation make it clear that the world is very fragile.

Mr Guterres added: I hope that in the present moment the leaders will be humble enough to recognize our fragility and understand that we need unity, solidarity and international cooperation.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; edited by Grant McCool

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