UN Security Council approves Covid-19 resolution after deadlock

The resolution "demands a general and immediate cessation of hostilities" in key conflicts

Christoph Heusgen, Germany's ambassador to the UN, who took over the council's rotating presidency for a month

The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved a coronavirus resolution on Wednesday, after more than three months of deadlock over a response to the crisis, dpa reports. The text backs UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' 23 March call for a global ceasefire so that the world can concentrate on tackling the outbreak.

The resolution, submitted by France and Tunisia, "demands a general and immediate cessation of hostilities" in key conflicts including Syria, Libya and Yemen. It also "calls upon all parties to armed conflicts to engage immediately in a durable humanitarian pause for at least 90 consecutive days" to enable the delivery of aid and medical evacuations.

"This is a sign for hope for all people currently living in conflict zones around the world," said Christoph Heusgen, Germany's ambassador to the UN, who took over the council's rotating presidency for a month.

"The negotiations were not easy, but this resolution shows that differences can indeed be overcome, especially in the face of this pandemic," Heusgen added, as quoted by dpa.

Attempts by the powerful 15-member panel to pass a coronavirus resolution had been stymied by a dispute between the United States and China over the role of the World Health Organisation (WHO). Beijing wanted the global health agency to be mentioned in any resolution, while Washington did not.

US President Donald Trump announced in May that the US would leave the WHO and would stop funding, accusing it of acting in China's favour, though WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday said the US had not stopped collaborating with the agency.

The latest Security Council resolution includes no direct mention of the WHO, referring instead to "relevant parts of the United Nations system" and an April General Assembly resolution which does acknowledge the global health body's role in the global response to the pandemic.

The council has come under fire for its disunity in the face of the global crisis, with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas describing it as "evidence of incapacity." Maas is set to lead a Security Council debate on the pandemic on Thursday.

UN expert Richard Gowan, of the Crisis Group think tank, said Guterres' ceasefire call ran out of steam in the 69 days it took the council to adopt the resolution since it was first presented.

"If we had limited expectations for the #GlobalCeasefire, the [Security Council's] prolonged failure to get a resolution (thanks to bickering between [the US] and [China]) sapped the initiative's momentum and impact," he tweeted.

He also said the resolution would only make a difference if council members "put their weight behind securing some actual pauses in hostilities in some specific conflicts, rather than think passing a UNSC [resolution] is enough."

More on this subject: Coronavirus

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