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UN Security Council to discuss COVID19 pandemic in closed session today

PTI | New York | Updated: 09-04-2020 13:53 IST | Created: 09-04-2020 13:27 IST
UN Security Council to discuss COVID19 pandemic in closed session today
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (File photo) Image Credit: Twitter (@UN)

The UN Security Council will hold a closed video-teleconferencing session on Thursday to discuss the COVID19 situation, the first time the world body's top organ is holding a meeting on the raging coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 88,500 people globally and infected over 1.5 million others. Council President for the month of April, the Dominican Republic has formally scheduled a closed video-teleconferencing (VTC) "in connection with the impact of COVID-19 on the issues that fall under the Security Council's mandate." UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will participate in the session, scheduled on Thursday at 3 pm New York time (12.30 am IST), as a briefer.

Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric said at the daily press briefing that the UN chief has been asked by the Security Council to brief. "He will basically give a broad update on the impact of the virus on the UN's operations, political operations, peacekeeping, humanitarian." It remains to be seen whether any press statement by the Council on the COVID19 situation is issued after the meeting.

Special Envoy from the Dominican Republic to UN Ambassador Jose Singer and President of Security Council for April had said that a Council meeting on the coronavirus situation had been requested by five or six ambassadors and the Dominican Republic was working to schedule the discussion. The Dominican Republic assumed the rotating presidency of the 15-nation council for the month of April, taking the baton from permanent and veto-welding member China.

When asked by PTI if any resolution on the COVID19 is expected when the Council meets to discuss the issue, Singer said last week "we have not discussed the issue of a resolution…. We are first expecting to hold that meeting, and then we'll see how events play out." In the four months since the outbreak originated in China, efforts to discuss the coronavirus situation in the Security Council have stalled mainly due to the bitter stalemate between Washington and Beijing. The Council's two veto-wielding permanent members are divided over the origin of the pandemic.

An NBC News report had said that talks among Security Council nations over a joint declaration or resolution on coronavirus remain in a stalemate over Washington's insistence that such a resolution should explicitly state that the virus originated in Wuhan, China, as well as exactly when it started there. Beijing's diplomats "are enraged" at this and even want to put their own language into the statement praising China's efforts to contain the virus. This month, the 193-member UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution, co-sponsored by 188 nations including India, on COVID19, calling for intensified international cooperation to defeat the pandemic and stressing that racism and xenophobia have no place in the response to the pandemic.

The resolution titled 'Global solidarity to fight the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)' was the first such document on the global pandemic to be adopted by the world organization. Even as confirmed coronavirus cases across the world grew exponentially, the Council under the presidency of China last month did not hold any discussions on the pandemic.

China's Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun, as he took over the presidency of the Council in March, was asked whether China plans to discuss the coronavirus emergency. He had said that there is no need to panic over the coronavirus epidemic and Beijing does not plan to discuss the situation in the Council during its presidency, even adding that the world is not far from the defeat of COVID19 "with the coming of spring." He had added that the issue of coronavirus falls within the concept of global public health while the Security Council's primary responsibility is dealing with geopolitical security and peace matters.

"So, the public health security issue is not in the scope of the mandate of the Security Council in a narrow concept. But what we do think is important is that the Security Council will also watch the situation very closely. At this moment, we do not have any plan to have a specific discussion on this issue," Zhang said. According to estimates by the Johns Hopkins University in New York, there are over 1.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases across the world and over 88,500 people have died from coronavirus.

The US has the highest number of COVID19 cases in the world at 432,132, followed by Spain (148,220), Italy (139,422), Germany (113,296). More than 14,000 people have died in the US so far due to COVID19.


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