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24 March 2020, 17:00

UN's Guterres calls for global cease-fire in the face of virus threat

Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres. Photo:
Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres. Photo:

NEW YORK, 24 March, (BelTA - China Daily) - UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged warring parties across the world to lay down their weapons in support of the wider battle against the coronavirus in an appeal issued Monday.

He called the virus "the common enemy" that is now threatening all of humankind.

"The virus does not care about race or nationality, faction or faith. It attacks all, relentlessly," he said.

"Meanwhile, armed conflict rages on around the world. The most vulnerable — women and children, people with disabilities, the marginalized and the displaced — pay the highest price. They are also at the highest risk of suffering devastating losses from COVID-19," he said.

"Let's not forget that in war-ravaged countries, health systems have collapsed. Health professionals, already few in number, have often been targeted. Refugees and others displaced by violent conflict are doubly vulnerable," he said. "The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war."

The UN chief said he believed we should all strive to "end the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world. It starts by stopping the fighting everywhere — now".

"That is why today, I am calling for an immediate global cease-fire in all corners of the world," he said.

"It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives," he added.

To all warring parties, Guterres appealed for them to pull back from hostilities, put aside mistrust and animosity, silence the guns, stop the artillery and end the airstrikes.

Instead, he said, it is crucial to help create corridors for lifesaving aid, to open windows for diplomacy and bring hope to places that are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.

The secretary-general's appeal was broadcast live over the internet from UN Headquarters in New York. Guterres also answered questions submitted online from reporters.

Asked how he was feeling, the UN chief responded that he is "strongly determined", underlining that this is a moment in which the UN must be most active.

"The UN must fully assume its responsibilities first," he said, "but at the same time, it's a moment in which the UN must be able to address the peoples of the world and appeal for a massive mobilization and for a massive pressure on governments to make sure that we are able to respond to this crisis, not to mitigate it but to suppress it, to suppress the disease and to address the dramatic economic and social impacts of the disease.

"And we can only do it if we do it together, if we do in a coordinated way, if we do it with intense solidarity and cooperation — and that is the raison d'etre of the United Nations itself."

Guterres said he had just sent letters to the leaders of G20 and had spoken with some of them.

"It's clear that we need a stronger coordination in suppression of the disease, coordination in making sure that not only the developed countries can respond effectively to the disease but there's massive support to the developing world, not to let the disease spread like a wildfire in the developing world," he said.

World Health Organization Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus echoed Guterres' view by reiterating that solving the current problem requires both political commitment and coordination at the global level.

"We recognize that some countries are struggling with the capacity to carry out these offensive measures," he said at a media briefing on COVID-19 in Geneva on Monday. "Several countries have shown that mobilizing resources internally from less-affected regions is one way to increase capacity."

"We're also grateful that several countries have sent emergency medical teams to care for patients and train health workers in other countries that need support," he added. "This is an incredible example of international solidarity."

UN News reported Monday that the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) launched a new platform to help global networks under increasing strain during the COVID-19 crisis to remain "safer, stronger and more connected", according to the agency's chief.

"The new platform will assist governments and the private sector in ensuring that networks are kept resilient and telecommunication services are available to all," said ITU Secretary-General Zhao Houlin.

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