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Security Council to Meet on Coronavirus Amid 2 Competing Texts

Security Council to Meet on Coronavirus Amid 2 Competing Texts

Thursday, 9 April, 2020 - 08:15
FILE PHOTO: Members of the United Nations Security Council gather during a meeting about the situation in Venezuela, in New York, US, February 26, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Asharq Al-Awsat

After weeks of disagreement -- especially between the United States and China -- the UN Security Council will meet Thursday to discuss the coronavirus pandemic for the first time.


Led by Tunisia and Germany, nine of the council's 10 non-permanent members requested the closed-door meeting -- a video conference to maintain social distancing -- last week, fed up with the body's inaction over the unprecedented global crisis.


Talks are moving in the right direction, diplomats said, and Washington is no longer insisting UN language refer to the virus as coming from China, which had infuriated Beijing.


Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is expected to focus on efforts to fight the pandemic, peacekeeping missions and fostering unity between the non-permanent members (Tunisia, Germany, Belgium, Indonesia, Vietnam, South Africa, Niger, the Dominican Republic, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Estonia) and the five permanent ones.


There are two competing texts up for debate.


One, spearheaded by Tunisia on behalf of the 10 non-permanent members and obtained by AFP, calls for "an urgent, coordinated and united international action to curb the impact of COVID-19" and urges an immediate global ceasefire on humanitarian grounds.


The draft says the pandemic is “a threat to humanity and to international peace and security.”


That draft resolution has been in development since March 30, though a vote on it is not yet scheduled.


The second text, proposed by France, focuses on Guterres' call last month to cease all hostilities around the world as part of a "humanitarian pause" to fight the pandemic.


That one has so far only had input from the permanent members (Russia, the US, China, France and the United Kingdom), which diplomats from non-permanent countries told AFP has been "very frustrating."


Efforts to convene a meeting have been stymied by the hospitalization of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chinese reticence to participate without first setting a clear agenda.


A Western ambassador, speaking anonymously, said the two blocs needed each other.


"The permanent cannot pass a text without the voices of the non-permanent, the non-permanent cannot impose a text on the permanent because they have a veto. We must necessarily agree and we will try to 'hear'," they said.


In the Security Council, at least nine votes out of 15 are necessary to adopt a resolution, without a veto of one of the five permanent members.


Last Thursday, the UN General Assembly approved a resolution calling for "international cooperation" and "multilateralism" in the fight against COVID-19, in the first response by the international body since the outbreak began.


The resolution, approved by consensus, also stresses "the need for full respect for human rights" and that "there is no place for any form of discrimination, racism and xenophobia in the response to the pandemic."


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